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Handling asbestos on I-11 route will cost $12.7 million

State transportation leaders got an unwelcome surprise in December 2013 when a team of UNLV researchers discovered traces of naturally occurring asbestos along the route of the planned Interstate 11 Boulder City bypass.

Last month, they got another unwelcome surprise — how much it was going to cost to minimize the health risks associated with the substance.

Between two contracts for the construction of the bypass, officials will spend an estimated $12.7 million to dispose of the substance and to monitor air quality while it’s being done.

The Nevada Transportation Department board was told Monday that the department would pay $8 million to provide the equipment and personnel necessary for its 2.5-mile portion of the 15-mile project.

Department Director Rudy Malfabon said that while a report on the asbestos removal listed costs of $8 million, the department would have had to pay $5 million for monitoring and inspections unrelated to asbestos.

“This completely blindsided me, and it isn’t a small amount of money,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval, who chairs the board.

The department received a report in March outlining the needs.

Because naturally occurring asbestos is unusual on Nevada road projects, the department doesn’t have the equipment or expertise for proper disposal and monitoring.

Assistant director Reid Kaiser told board members the state would have to hire a consultant to lead the asbestos remediation process.

According to a memorandum from project manager Megan Sizelove, the consultant would provide up to two inspectors, up to two testers, an office manager and a part-time scheduler over the three years of the project.

The personnel list also will include a certified industrial hygienist, an asbestos specialist, a dust-control monitor, a geologist and a Nevada-certified environmental manager.

In order to monitor the asbestos, the team will require nuclear gauges, trucks and cellphones, the memo said.

The state contract is one of two involved in the I-11 project. The other contract, under the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, has dedicated an additional $4.7 million for asbestos mitigation.

The I-11 project had a high-profile kickoff last week when the department and the commission hosted several high-ranking federal, state and local officials for the groundbreaking of the $318 million project.

The highest concentration of the naturally occurring asbestos is located near the spot where the groundbreaking event was conducted, about 2 miles north of the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge over the Colorado River.

In other business Monday, the board approved a resolution to condemn three residential properties to make way for Project Neon, the 3.7-mile project to overhaul the busy Spaghetti Bowl interchange.

Department officials told the board that the owners of the properties, which are held by trusts, and the state are deadlocked on the price of the homes on Loch Lomond Way, south of Oakey Boulevard. The backyards of the properties abut Interstate 15, which would be widened in the $1.5 billion project.

Paul Saucedo, who oversees right-of-way acquisitions, said the property owners want $7 million an acre, or about $1.3 million per lot and home. The state is offering between $205,000 and $230,000. Other homes in the neighborhood settled on acquisitions for between $195,000 and $250,000.

Under the condemnation process, the state negotiates with property owners for the land and relocation expenses. Most of the transactions are settled in negotiations, but when they aren’t, the state has the right to take the owners to court and condemn the property. The attorney general will file in District Court, and after a trial, a price is agreed upon.

The court process is expected to take up to two years.

Project Neon will revamp the state’s busiest highway interchange with a new flyover ramp connecting a southbound U.S. Highway 95 high-occupancy-vehicle lane to southbound I-15 and develop a series of braided entrances and exits and a redesign of the Charleston Boulevard exit.

Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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