On July 28th, thousands of people came to see close-up and personal the nearly completed I-580 Freeway. When finished, it will better connect Washoe Valley to South Reno, lighten the traffic through Pleasant Valley, and lessen the bottleneck that’s starting to form at the Mount Rose Intersection. Throngs of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists attended Sunday’s Rush to Washoe event that began at 7:00 AM and went strong until 1PM.
Naturally, my wife and I decided to bring our bicycles to the event. We parked at Bowers Mansion Park, rode north on the old highway, then merged onto the new Freeway. The new section from the south gains elevation quick on its way to the Galena Creek Bridge.
While it’s always fun to check out a new road, the real star of the day’s event was the Galena Creek Bridge, the longest concrete cathedral arch bridge in the nation. The bridge is what everyone really wanted to see. After we climbed above Pleasant Valley, I kept peeking over the barrier to see how high we were and to see if we had left the ground yet.
Near the bridge, some of the big rigs that were used for construction were on display. Most impressive to me was a dump truck with giant tires that dwarfed our 700c road bike wheels.
As it turns out, you didn’t have to look over the side to realize you were at the epicenter of the event. Traffic from both the north and south merged into a crowd. Booths from various interest groups were setup. Interpretive posters were on display. NDOT was handing out water to the hot and thirsty. First Aid vehicles were at the ready. Portable bathrooms lined the barrier. We all had absolute faith the bridge was designed for this much activity.
The moment I’d been waiting for had arrived. To look over the side of the bridge at its highest point. I laid my bike against the thick concrete wall, and carefully leaned over the chest high barrier.
Galena Creek Bridge Stats:
- Total length: 1,725 feet (526 m)
- Height: 295 feet (90 m)
- Longest span: 689 feet (210 m)
I’m not a big fan of drop-offs at all. The side barrier was reassuring enough though, and I was able to somewhat calmly peer over the edge. Height always seems to be exaggerated when viewed from the top looking down; however, the Galena Creek Bridge also looks very tall from down below. It looked really far to the ground from where I was standing. The giant trucks and tractors at the bottom of the gully looked like mere matchbox toys. Many thoughts circled my mind, “Wow! Is my camera securely strapped to my wrist? Did they remember to properly secure this particular barrier I’m leaning against? Will it hold me? What about a big rig slamming into it at 70mph? Was it a good idea to build a bridge this high?” I began to feel woozy, and returned to the center of the bridge.
We visited some friends in the booths and on the road, then headed north a bit for a look back. Yep, the bridge still looked very tall from this angle too. As we headed back south and over the bridge, the event was beginning to wrap up. We weaved our way through the dispersing crowd then made our way south for the big descent to Bowers Mansion.
The new freeway and bridge are definitely construction marvels, no doubt about it. It also seems to make perfect sense given our preferred and locally available mode of travel between Reno and Carson City. What if we had instead spent the money on a robust bus system though? Or a commuter train? Would we still have the excuse that our schedules and lifestyles are far too unique to utilize public transportation?
There are still many finishing touches to be made before the freeway is ready for the high speed of commuter traffic; for example, some center barriers still need to be installed, and a few transitions between sections were still a bit rough. Just a few more weeks, and we’ll get to see how it all works. One thing is certain though. I’m glad I won’t be among the first of the winter commuters to test out this new route! Good luck too all of you.
Did you ride the freeway? How did your ride go? What are your thoughts on the project?