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Transportation officials zero in on contractor for Tesla highway

CARSON CITY — The state Board of Transportation was told Monday that Ames Construction Inc. is the “apparent best value” proposer to design and build a new road to improve access to the Tesla battery plant at a cost of $75.9 million.

Ames was one of four firms on a short list that was scored on the USA Parkway project, which consists of a new road from where Tesla is based near Interstate 80 south to U.S. Highway 50.

The board, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, reviewed the scoring process but took no action. The presentation was informational only. A contract for approval will come back to the board next month.

The project estimate was $70 million. It is expected to get underway early next year with a completion date of December 2017.

“This project has the highest economic return of any project I’ve ever seen,” Sandoval said.

The road was bumped up on the priority list of state transportation projects, but for a good reason, he said.

The USA Parkway already consists of 6 miles of four-lane highway south from I-80. The parkway extension would add 12.5 miles to U.S. 50 to provide access from Lyon County, which has had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

Ames is a full-service, heavy civil and industrial general contractor with offices throughout North America. Its Nevada office is in Carlin.

Other firms on the short list include Granite Construction Co., Kiewit Western Co. and Q&D Construction Inc.

Following a review of both technical and price-based project construction proposals submitted by the proposers, Ames Construction was determined as the best value proposer. Ames proposed the lowest price, which was $2 million lower than the next runner-up, and had the second lowest technical score. Ames Construction also proposed a construction schedule of 606 working days, approximately a month shorter than the next shortest time frame.

“We’re dedicated to providing a transportation system that keeps Nevadans safe and connected,” said Transportation Department Director Rudy Malfabon. “Ames’ proposal not only completes the project in a quicker time frame, but at a lesser cost.”

Developing the USA Parkway, also known as state Route 439, has been in the department’s plans since 2011, well before the Tesla Motor Co. considered building its lithium ion battery plant in Nevada. However, the state wants to expedite the project to provide access to construction workers as soon as possible.

Extending USA Parkway to U.S. 50 will give better access to workers as well as employees of the 110 companies in the 107,000-acre industrial park who live in Yerington, Dayton, Stagecoach and Carson City. Currently, workers from those locations must access the area from I-80, either through Fernley on U.S. Highways 50A and 95A or through Reno via Interstate 580.

Board members have characterized the project as an economic development effort. It includes some improvements to the existing highway and to portions of U.S. 50, and would be paid for with state highway funds over two fiscal years.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.

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