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US 395, Part 14: Reno (Old US 395/NV-FR 423 [FR WA23] and US 395/I-580 Fwy to California State Line)

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Go to: Part 13 | Main 395 page | Part 15

And now, it can be told. If you've been watching the legislative definitions of everything that's signed US 395 in Nevada, and actually isn't US 395, then it will probably not shock you much to find out that the modern US 395 freeway through Reno ... isn't US 395 either. Rather, the modern freeway US 395 is actually the (stealth) first and opened portion of Interstate 580, the spur we mentioned was to extend eventually down to the southern US 50/US 395 intersection in Carson City as described in Part 11 (and shown at the end of Part 10).

I-580 is a "stealth" Interstate because it's completely unsigned along its length; the only shields up are US 395. The clue is the postmiles, which display "IR 580" from the southern extent of the freeway (as of this writing) up to its termination at exit 72 north of I-80, where we saw BR 395 join in the last section (contrast this with I-515 in Las Vegas, which shows US 95 on the postmiles despite being a spur of I-15). Unlike other Interstates in Nevada, however, it lacks the green companion MUTCD mileposts which will probably be added when the route is completed.

It is unclear whether the US 395 freeway was originally built with the intention of conversion to Interstate miles, or whether this occurred later. Nevertheless, there is evidence it was on Nevada's books as early as 1957 even though the first portions of what are now or will become I-580 were opened as US 395 in 1964 (in this case, the portion between Carson City and Lakeview [junction NV 428, Eastlake Blvd] as we saw in Part 12). The I-580 "US 395" freeway in Reno was originally planned between Winters Ranch/Bowers Mansion (northern junction NV 429) and Glendale Ave as early as 1963, but locked up in the courts for years due to environmental challenges. During this time, the first portion of "US 395" was opened between Panther Valley (where modern BR 395/legislative NV 430 diverges south) and I-80 south to Glendale Ave in 1973, and some of the original signs from this first phase of construction are still up. In 1977, an impact study finally authorized the corridor but from S Virginia St to Glendale Ave only, which was built first between Glendale and Moana and then Moana to S Virginia St to open in 1980 (likely the events behind TEMP US 395 in Part 13). Stepwise construction starting in 1983 then extended "US 395" from S Virginia St to the Mt Rose Hwy (NV 431), where its terminus is today pending the completion of I-580 to the south. All of "US 395" in Reno north of the Mt Rose Hwy is part of High-Priority Corridor #19.

Despite I-580 not being signed in the field today, field reports indicate that it used to be signed for some period of time (and some contemporary maps still showed it into the 1980s). This signing was incomplete, did not appear on the freeway itself or on I-80, and only showed up on the approaches to certain intersections. The I-580 shields lasted probably a year or so at most before being greened out. However, as NDOT is making a big deal out of calling the freeway extension I-580, it appears that the entire road will once again bear an Interstate shield when completed, along with the original US 395 shields along the route our highway always traveled. What's legislatively I-580 is another matter, but we'll talk about that in a moment.

To be sure, US 395 as it leaves town to the north truly is US 395 once again, legislatively and otherwise. We'll look at where the dividing line between I-580 and US 395 is officially drawn when we look at the freeway alignment.


Fork 2: N Virginia St, NV-FR 423 (FR WA23)

But first, let's finish our old alignment before we get to the new one. We rewind back to the intersection with Panther Drive in Part 13, at which point N Virginia St turned north again without the BR 395 or NV 430 designation. We do so as well.

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So, if it weren't congested, could I shoot my large free-range cow with my trusty dog at my side?

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This portion of north Reno is pretty much drab small industry.

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Junction Stead Blvd, unsigned NV 673.

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This extremely short highway is only 0.161 miles according to the NDOT route log. You're looking at the entire extent of it (N. Virginia St to the US 395 freeway). Stead Blvd continues on without a state highway designation east of the freeway to serve the northern Reno area.

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NDOT right-of-way markers next to NV 673. However, note how the two form a right angle, which implies there is NDOT easement next to Virginia St even though it is not apparently a state highway. We'll look at something related to this possibility in a moment.

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Continuing N Virginia St, parallel to the US 395 freeway. US 395 is truly US 395, legislatively speaking, by this point.

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Red Rock Rd. Still signed as Virginia St in the field. There is a portion of the Beckwourth Trail (Parts 13 and 15) nearby at the parcel at 1370 North Hills Blvd according to this Washoe county press release, and there is also a state historical site marker near this exit.

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Not far after that junction, Virginia St abruptly turns into dirt road. However, NAVTEQ flags this whole area, including N. Virginia St at Red Rock Rd, as old US 395 alignment (see Google Maps). So, we will traverse it. Believe it or not, there is a payoff.

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Ach, this can't be good for my suspension. Note the guardrail of the freeway visible to the right.

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Descending into the valley. Dry White Lake is visible ahead.

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After all that bumping around, here's the payoff -- we were on state road! Here is a postmile facing SB indicating this dirt road officially as Frontage Road 423 (a rare use of the FR postmile designation). The NDOT route log identifies this alignment as FR WA23, with its termini at NV 673 and the California state line, so this is the road we just came over (although the route log gives its total mileage as 7.790, at odds with PM 8.30 shown here). Both the NAVTEQ plot and this evidence that this road is still state-maintained are highly suspicious for old alignment.

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Ahhh, asphalt (plucks out supreme wedgie from all that bumping around).

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Crossing US 395 at the Cold Springs Valley exit.

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Continuing on old US 395/FR WA23-FR 423.

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But wait, there's more! -- this alignment is even signed as US 395 in the field!

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And there are still NDOT R-o-W markers, here at the Bordertown exit.

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The state line is reached without fanfare as we cross into California for US 395's second routing through the state over the Sierra county line.

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Signage for Washoe county looking back, and another FR 423 (FR WA23) postmile with another out-of-whack mile count on the milepost.

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Oh, cutout shields, I have missed you sooooo much!! Note that the highway abruptly drops below freeway grade right at the border as this is an at-grade crossing.

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Old US 395 does continue into California, signed here as SierraCo 570 Long Valley Rd.

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However, Long Valley Rd doesn't get very far, immediately executing a U-turn to head southwest. US 395's expressway alignment can be seen to the north.

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And there it goes, over the railroad tracks and into the scrub. With that, this seems like a good time for us to head back, too. This actually isn't the end of the old alignment in California, but we'll address that in Part 15.

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Fork 3: US 395 Freeway (Interstate 580)

At least the freeway will be kinder to my rear end (assuming I don't get hit from behind while I photograph). To get to the current southern end, we drive all the way back to the Mt Rose Jct (Part 12) and head west on NV 431 Mt Rose Hwy. However, there's no access from WB NV 431, so we have to loop around and get to NB US 395 from the eastbound side.

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Freeway entrance.

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And, as promised, an IR 580 postmile. Note that even though this is the southernmost point of the freeway as of this writing, the mileage count says the freeway is almost "15 miles long" in Washoe county already. This corresponds well with the miles between here and the Carson City limits.

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Advance signage for our first exits.

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US 395 reassurance shield. No Interstate shields anywhere. This portion of the freeway is the most recently constructed in the Reno area as of this writing (June 2008).

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NB US 395 (stealth I-580).

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Exit for So. Virginia St. Note how there is no signage here for BR 395. This begins the portions of the route constructed 1977-1980.

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Exit for Neil Rd and (unsigned) NV 667 along Del Monte Ln. Remember this junction because we will be referencing it shortly.

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Into the city.

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Exit for Moana Lane. The US 395 is designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freeway, after the civil rights leader.

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Airport exit.

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Old, non-reflective, non-button copy signage on the oldest alignment from Glendale Avenue to the Panther Valley. This sign is now gone, but I'm keeping this old 2005 picture up.

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Glendale Avenue exit and advance signage for the Interstate 80 junction. Interesting that the I-80 sign gives Elko as the control city; I-80 itself uses Salt Lake City (see below).

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Junction I-80. Note how US 395 has changed its control city to Susanville.

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Detour: Interstate 80 Junction

Just for fun, let's look at some of the old signs on EB I-80 as it approaches US 395/I-580. Here's one, depicting the change in its own control city to Salt Lake [City] -- not Elko. Again, no buttons, no reflective coating. These pictures were taken in 2005, shortly before their removal.

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More old signage on I-80 at the Wells Ave exit. Again, US 395's northern control city is given as Susanville; its southern one is listed as Carson City.

At one time, I-80 also had an exit for Business 395 along Virginia Street. Steve Alpert has one of Michael Summa's excellent archival images from 1976.

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Coming up on the junction.

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Exit. The heavily separated "EXIT" and "ONLY" on these last two is interesting.

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Separation.

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A little less than a year later, the old enamel signs came down and were replaced with the modern retroflective crap. Note that there is a suspicious space next to the US 395 shield. Why, do you think, would it be placed off centre? What should be there?

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Not sure why the last one had a black blankout and this one doesn't, but the gap is here too at the exit.

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The gap is clearly intentional (and yes, it's for I-580), because on the new separation signage there is no gap for NB US 395 to Susanville since it's not I-580. SB, however, has one.

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Fork 3, Continued

Back on NB US 395, north of I-80.

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McCarran Blvd exit, NV 651.

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So are we on US 395, or are we still stealth I-580?

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Well, the postmiles seem to think we're still on the Interstate, but the NDOT route log doesn't. In fact, looking at the route log, only "US 395" from the Neil Rd/Del Monte Ln (NV 667) interchange to I-80 is defined presently as I-580 for a total of not even five miles. However, it seems that the route log does not take into account the future routing of the highway, so in this case we will take the postmiles as gospel instead.

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Advance signage for the Panther Valley exit.

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First distance signage for Susanville, as well as the Hallelujah Jct (CA 70, old ALT US 40).

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Exit 72 to the Panther Valley. This is the northern approach to BR 395 (Part 13).

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By the way, here is Exit 72 from the southbound side, another example of old and new together. In darkness or with direct sunlight behind it, the non-reflective left sign is nearly illegible except for the reflective greenout giving the control city as "Sparks-Reno" (a later upgrade probably covering up Carson City). As of this writing, this is the only signage indicating the business route from the modern US 395 freeway.

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When we get past the BR 395 exit, suddenly the postmiles revert back to US 395. This finally introduces US 395 back onto its alignment unambiguously, as the route log, the signage and the milepost type all concur at last. This seems to be the future northern terminus of I-580.

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Fork 4: US 395 Freeway

Leaving Reno on NB US 395, at Stead Blvd (NV 673). This isn't really a fork, but we're not on I-580 anymore either.

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Crossing the hills to the north.

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Entering into the Cold Springs Valley and past dry White Lake.

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Last Nevada exit. Get yer gamblin' in now if you have any money still burnin' a hole in yer pocket, y'hear?

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California state line/Sierra county line (immediately on realigned miles).

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Last Nevada postmile on the left side of the NB lanes. The turnoff goes towards FR WA23 (as seen in Fork 2).

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Wave goodbye to Nevada, because we're back in the Golden State.

Continue to Part 15

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