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Drivers prepare for big Spaghetti Bowl construction in Reno

Love the Spaghetti Bowl for its convenience or hate it because of its congestion -- no matter how you feel, get ready. It's about to get a major face-lift.

The interchange for Interstates 80 and 580 is bursting at the seams with congestion, car crashes and is overall just outdated.

"I drive through here all the time and it's always backed up; it's crazy," said Joe Powell, who drives a Coca Cola truck five days a week.

He said he sees the traffic back-ups daily.

"Oh miles, miles long. I've seen it pretty bad," he said. "I'm telling you, some of these mornings it gets hectic out here. It gets a little hairy, especially in the morning."

The Nevada Department of Transportation is currently doing a traffic study on the Spaghetti Bowl. It then expects to have design drawings and will also look for public feedback.

In about three-and-a-half years, the state hopes to break ground. The cost: $250 to $500 million, depending on the design. The NDOT director said federal money will finance up to 90 percent of the project. Bonds should cover the rest.

"If it was an easy fix, NDOT would have done it by now," said Rudy Malfabon, the Director of the Nevada Department of Transportation. "The ramps may be flyovers. We're going to think outside the box."

The Spaghetti Bowl was built from 1969 to 1971, when there were 130,000 people living in Reno. Today, there's more than three times that, with a population close to a half-million people.

"It was built for a different time. Different design standards back then," Malfabon said. "It's an outdated design."

The state considers the Spaghetti Bowl construction a priority. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval mentioned it in his State of the State Address.

"The Spaghetti Bowl is another interchange that is beyond capacity, resulting in too many accidents and extended commuter delays," he said in his speech last month.

To help ease the congestion in the meantime, the state has added some smaller solutions, including ramp meters that look like traffic lights that slow the crush of cars merging during rush hours. Digital message boards also warn drivers of crashes, back-ups or road construction.

Drivers are bracing for the construction.

"It'd be nice. Hopefully it's a speedy thing. Hopefully it doesn't take them forever to do it," said driver Norman Beach.

They said they know it's going to be a difficult process while it's under construction.

"Hopefully good. But it might take a while before it gets good," said driver Scott Meyers.

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