How to fund, maintain and build critical transportation projects is the focus of a conversation taking place not only in Southern Nevada but across the entire country. As our Southern Nevada community continues to modernize, grow and diversify, the needs of our transportation infrastructure demand more attention.
Ensuring efficient interconnectivity and mobility for more than two million residents in the valley and 41 million visitors every year is paramount to our region’s continued economic prosperity and sustainability. While costs for transportation construction projects continue to increase with inflation, our budgets to complete road projects have not.
To cover this gap in funding, the RTC partnered in 2013 with local leaders, our business community, state legislature, Governor Sandoval and the Clark County Commission to support Fuel Revenue Indexing to keep pace with material and labor costs, generate funds for critically needed transportation projects and create jobs.
From January 2014 to December 2016, a portion of what drivers pay at the pump will help fund transportation projects throughout Clark County. For motorists, this averages about a dime a day over the three-year time period. This investment at the pump will generate approximately $700 million to fund 199 projects in Southern Nevada, ultimately creating more than 9,000 jobs. After 2016, in order for fuel revenue indexing to continue in Clark County, it will go to the vote of the people via a ballot initiative.
Without indexing, the RTC forecasted to have only $22.4 million a year over the next 10 years in available funds for street and highway projects, which equates to building one interchange per year, one mile of roadway per year in each jurisdiction, or one beltway segment without bridges per year.
What has been accomplished so far?
After the first year of FRI, our valley has seen great progress. Road projects that benefit commuters across the valley are underway, including bringing the northern beltway to freeway standards and building overpasses and bridges to increase connectivity in the area. Other projects launched to improve safety for pedestrians include the installation of traffic lights in a growing residential community near Wet ‘n Wild and Faiss Middle School in the southwest valley. And several projects have already been completed, including the final section of Galleria Drive from Boulder Highway to Lake Las Vegas, making it easier for motorists and cyclists to get to and from shopping and services.
Thanks to FRI, 83 design and construction contracts totaling $164 million were awarded by year-end 2014. Of these contracts, 53 have been awarded to local small businesses. And approximately 2,121 jobs have been created so far. Not only is FRI improving our roads and pedestrian safety, it is putting our small businesses and residents back to work during a critical period of economic recovery.
What will be done in the future?
Our work is not done though. In 2015, we will break ground on the Boulder City Bypass, the first portion of the future I-11 highway connecting Las Vegas and Phoenix. We will also begin construction on the Flamingo Road Improvement project that will improve traffic flow, enhance pedestrian safety and add dedicated transit lanes on this busy arterial.
We will also visit the Nevada Legislature in 2015. Here, the Southern Nevada business community will be in the driver seat asking Nevada legislators to amend AB 413 to specifically ensure the ballot questions required in 2016 elections are less confusing to voters. Currently, the legislation reads that two questions will be on the 2016 ballot. The first question will ask if voters in Clark County want to continue to index the gas tax in Clark County to inflation. The second question will be a statewide question to voters asking if they want to index the state gas tax to inflation.
The business community along with the RTC understands that having two ballot questions is very confusing for residents. As a result, an amendment would allow for one question to be placed on the ballot in each county asking the voters of each county if they want to allow for fuel tax indexing after 2016. If approved by the individual county, the portion of indexing collected on state fuel taxes would be transferred to NDOT and allocated to projects located in the county where the indexing revenues were collected.
Fuel Revenue Indexing is fueling our region’s future by providing the necessary funds to move forward with transportation projects that will benefit thousands of residents and visitors everyday – as well as support increased trade and economic development. The RTC remains committed to working with the local jurisdictions to advance projects that will improve commutes, enhance pedestrian safety and create jobs which will make our communities better places to live, work and play – now and in the future.