CARSON CITY — State transportation officials said they will seek funding from the 2011 Legislature for a Northern Nevada regional roads operations center similar to one in Las Vegas, but not all local officials back the proposal.
Discussions continue over whether the center could also house a centralized dispatch for emergency responders across the region.
“We could see tremendous benefits from this,” Scott Rawlins, deputy director for the Nevada Department of Transportation, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The location and cost of the Reno-area center are as yet unknown, but the facility would be much like the $15 million Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation, or FAST, operated in Las Vegas since 2004.
“We want to try to take the same benefits we see in Southern Nevada up to Northern Nevada,” Rawlins said.
The center would use live video cameras, ramp meters, electronic information signs and other technology to keep traffic flowing on the region’s busy highways, including Interstate 80, U.S. Highway 395 and U.S. Highway 50.
Dispatching would be coordinated for NDOT, the Nevada Highway Patrol and possibly other agencies.
“We want everybody to see the entire picture,” said Jim Poston, traffic engineer for the Regional Transportation Commission in Reno. The RTC is studying the proposal along with NDOT.
Data would be fed to the center about highways, city streets and county roads. When an accident occurs on one, traffic could be diverted to another with signals timed to keep cars moving. Motorists would be alerted by electronic signs.
NDOT received $1 million in state and federal money last year for planning purposes and will seek additional funding when the Legislature convenes in February.
During an RTC meeting earlier this month, members supported the general concept but also questioned the need for a region dispatch center.
From his perspective, the proposal is “growing and growing and growing” in scale, said Reno Councilman Dave Aiazzi, chairman of the RTC.
“I think they’re building something that doesn’t need to be built,” Aiazzi said.
Rawlins said the center could be built to accommodate whatever agencies wish to participate.
“It’s scalable, depending on who wants to be a part,” he said.
Chris Magenheimer, a battalion chief with the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, said coordinating dispatch operations makes sense and would be more efficient, especially during major emergencies such as wildfires and floods.