I-580 Freeway Ride

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.

I-580 Freeway Ride
On the new Freeway

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.

I-580 Freeway Ride
Looking back at Slide Mountain

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.

I-580 Freeway Ride
Now those are some big wheels…

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.

I-580 Freeway Ride
Talking to Scott Hall from the Reno Bike Project

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.

I-580 Freeway Ride
Very carefully looking over the edge

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.

I-580 Freeway Ride
Little toy trucks nearly 300 feet below

Galena Creek Bridge Stats:

  • Total length: 1,725 feet (526 m)
  • Height: 295 feet (90 m)
  • Longest span:  689 feet (210 m)

I-580 Freeway Ride
Inevitable consequence of looking over the edge of the bridge

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.

I-580 Freeway Ride
Kurt and Kristy

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.

I-580 Freeway Ride
Looking back at the bridge from the Reno Side

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?

I-580 Freeway Ride
MOADT – Mother of All Dump Trucks

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?

2 thoughts on “I-580 Freeway Ride

  1. My FIL and I did the ride early that morning and did basically the same as Jeff, parked at Bowers Mansion parking lot, rode up and peered over the bridge. It is quite a marvel to see! Since it was still early (by that time about 7:30ish) we decided we were going to head to the other end. We ran into a few people we know that were riding, walking, and running and eventually made it to the Reno side at Mt. Rose Highway. Once we got down there I heard the resounding cry from my FIL that he needed some energy, well….. there is a Starbucks in the Summitt Sierra mall, let’s go there! So off we went for a short refuel, then it was back to the grind. I tracked our time and other than forgetting to pause the GPS when I got to Starbucks we did a total of 25.9 miles in 1:47:29 which isn’t bad considering there were a few times were we had to dismount the bikes to walk through crowds.

    I do have to say that the funnest part was going back down the Galena Creek climb section on the way to Bowers Mansion. That is quite a stretch of road, a nice downhill grade and there were no people. So I stayed to the right, and buried the proverbial needle with my FIL yelling “HEEYAW!!! Get’em Greg… GEEETTTT”’EEEMMM!!!” Top speed on the descent was 42.2mph according to my computer!

  2. I always thought Volvo only made nice cars:) That definitely looked like a fun and interesting day. Ride a freeway with no traffic…Gotta love that:)

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