Nev. Highway Panel Focuses on State’s Funding Shortfall

Sat January 06, 2007 - West Edition
CEG



CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) A task force looking for ways to make up an expected $3.8 billion shortfall in Nevada highway project funding produced a list of recommended tax changes on Nov. 29 — including inflation-driven increases in state fuel levies.

The recommendations from the panel will be reviewed Dec. 5 by the state Transportation Board — which after the start of the year will be chaired by governor-elect Jim Gibbons, who opposes new taxes.

Another proposal from the task force, formed by the Transportation Board last year, would shift sales taxes on vehicle sales and repairs from the state general fund to a highway construction fund.

Other proposals would double the cost of drivers licenses to $40 for four years; and reduce a depreciation allowance that motorists now get when registering vehicles.

All told, the proposals would produce approximately $300 million at the start and increase over time. Transporation Department officials said the additional revenue could be used to pay off a bond issue that would cover a large part of various highway “super-projects.”

A list of future Nevada road projects carries a pricetag of more than $5.7 billion. That includes approximately $4 billion worth of road jobs in the Las Vegas area alone.

The biggest future Las Vegas-area projects include one for a $1.3 billion on Interstate 515, from Foothills Road to the Spaghetti Bowl; and another for $1.2 billion on Interstate 15, from Tropicana Avenue to the Spaghetti Bowl.

Future projects for the Reno area total $870 million, while the balance of approximately $900 million would be spent on road jobs throughout the state. The biggest of the future Reno-area projects is a $460 million job on Interstate 80, from Robb Drive to Vista Boulevard.

During earlier meetings, task force members said demands on Nevada’s highways are increasing and threaten to bankrupt the state’s roadbuilding and maintenance budget. They also predicted a likely increase of up to 25 percent in road and rail shipments by 2015.

Guinn has said the state is now involved in its largest highway construction program ever — and starting in 2008 many more projects will be needed to keep pace with Nevada’s rapid growth.