Monday, March 10, 2014 | 2:40 p.m.
CARSON CITY – Discovery of naturally occurring asbestos in the soils in a section of the proposed Boulder City bypass will cause a delay in the project as the state conducts a more comprehensive study.
“This was a bombshell that was dropped,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said Monday during a meeting of the state Transportation Board.
John Terry, assistant director of the state Transportation Department, said Monday the department's own environmental studies conducted earlier did not detect the asbestos, which was discovered by a team of UNLV researchers and reported in December. ”We have never dealt with this before.”
He said after the UNLV findings were released, the department immediately assembled a task force to determine the most suitable way to progress with the project given the highly sensitive nature of the potential health risk to workers and residents in Boulder City and the surrounding areas.
The news also caused the department to cancel a contract for a frontage road.
Terry said the project would require a lot of dirt to be moved, resulting in a lot of flying dust, which could carry asbestos particles. Any asbestos-carrying dust would pose health risks to workers and nearby communities, board members were advised. Federal and international agencies have determined that asbestos is a human carcinogen.
“This could be a show stopper,” said Sandoval, who chairs the Transportation Board.
The Transportation Department’s task force determined the most appropriate strategy moving forward would be to procure an expert to do additional soil testing and a full analysis for asbestos concentrations within the project area. The Transportation Board authorized the department to spend up to $400,000 to hire a consultant to perform the study.
Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, said the agency has hired its own consultant, who has discovered the naturally occurring asbestos in two of the 10 holes surveyed. Quigley said 200 holes would be surveyed and the results should be known by May 21.
The RTC is joining with the state to finance the bypass.
Terry did not estimate the length of the delay.
In other action, the board approved spending $5.5 million for safety improvements and repaving of cracking surfaces on State Route 157, known as Kyle Canyon Road in Clark County.
The state originally put up $2 million for the $20 million project, which is mostly on federal land. The added $5.5 million will extend the road surface for another 10 years, Terry said.
The department accepted $20 million from the city of Las Vegas as its share for right of way and construction of the Martin Luther King extension over Charleston Boulevard.
And the department is contributing $35 million for construction of the airport connector project in Clark County, expected to cost more than $60 million, said Rudy Malfabon, director of the state Transportation Department.