On September 25, 1975, the I-80 Carlin Tunnels west of Elko were opened to traffic. The tunnels provide smoother, safer interstate travel by bypassing a sharply curvy stretch of U.S. Highway 40 alongside the Humboldt River.
As the 1970s ended, the Department of Highways changed its name to the Nevada Department of Transportation, seeking balanced transportation policy and planning and incorporating state social, environmental and economic goals.
In 1985, NDOT led the transportation industry by installing a Road Weather Information System (RWIS) along Mt. Rose Highway south of Reno. System sensors transmit road condition information and temperatures, allowing NDOT to better control when, where and how much sand and salt is used on winter roads.
U.S. Highway 50 was officially named the “Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine in 1986.
In the 1990s, NDOT embarked on a list of “super highway” construction plans totaling $1.5 billion in response to a statewide population explosion. The super highway strategy included widening Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and the California state line, widening U.S. Highway 95 in the northwest Las Vegas Valley, extending Interstate 580 between Reno and Carson City, improving U.S. Highway 93 through Boulder City and starting construction on the Las Vegas Beltway.
In 1991, the Nevada State Legislature established a bicycle and pedestrian planning position within NDOT, responsible for integrating the needs of bicyclists into NDOT road projects and programs.
In January 1997, downtown Reno/Sparks streets flooded and bridges across the Truckee River were closed as water surged across roadways. Westbound lanes of Interstate 80 near the Helms Pit in Sparks crumbled. Large rocks and 125,000 cubic yards of material were dumped into the south end of the pit and the roadway was stabilized in six days.
In 1998, the department implemented the Freeway Service Patrol, a fleet of vans that cruise the freeways to help keep traffic safely flowing.