I-580 extension through Carson City: A drive through local history

Published: Aug. 2, 2017 at 6:07 PM PDT
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Think of it as a journey through Eagle Valley and Carson City's history. told through some unique art work.

A drive through the length of the newly-completed I-580 bypass through Carson City exposes the motorist to a glimpse of local history and culture.

It's a result of the Department of Transportation's adaptation to a federal highway beautification requirement.

In other states, that means planting trees, shrubs and flowers. Beautification certainly, but high maintenance. Difficult in the high desert.

"We find that the materials that we use that are going to weather and withstand the environment for years to come are steel, stone, natural materials, as well as the plantings that can endure our environment." says NDOT Landscape Architect Supervisor John L'Etoil.

The result::xeriscape plantings and, in recent years, freeway art work, decorative rock and sculptures rendered in weathered steel.

The I-580 extension has been built while this policy was in place and may have more of this kind of artwork per mile than any roadway in the state.

Locals have been long used to seeing the deer on the hillside, the eagle at the north end of the valley, the depiction of the V&T Railroad at the intersection with U-S 50 East, Fremont receiving a welcoming gift of pine nuts from the Washoe Tribe at Fairview Drive.

The new extension adds to that historic record. A Basque sheepherder with his flock at Koontz Lane, columns representing the aspen trees where the Basque left their carvings, then at Clearview Drive, a pioneer theme with a direct local connection. The Overland Trail actually passed nearby.

And finally a sound wall bearing the exquisite patterns in famed Washoe basket maker Dat-So-La-Lee's masterpieces.

There's one last piece of art to be added to this project, a signature piece for Eagle Valley, a 12-foot tall eagle rendered in weathered steel and polished aluminum.

He will soon welcome motorists to his valley, just as his counterpart to the north does.

At the moment, however, he's still sitting in a construction yard at the south end of the project, waiting for the engineering work needed to install him on his perch--a tall steel stump--where I-580, US-50 and 395 all meet. That should happen in the coming weeks.

His installation will complete the artwork on this long-awaited roadway, something L'Etoil can look forward to with some satisfaction.

"The Transportation Department believes it's important to invest and improve the quality of life of the traveling public as well as the communities our work impacts."

And the ? result may go behind a fleeting encounter with art at 65 mph. There's a hope that exposing motorists to these symbols of local history and culture will inspire some of them to dig deeper into those subjects at local museums and art galleries.