Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman says she’s ready to get behind a lobbying effort for legislation that would enable the state to collect tolls on Nevada highways.
At Tuesday’s Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority meeting, Goodman said she would press the issue if it means Nevada could develop critical highway projects faster.
Nevada is the only state among seven in the West that don’t have tolling authority.
Goodman’s declaration came in the wake of a pair of reports to the authority board about projects needed to improve transportation to and from the city. The LVCVA’s contracted transportation lobbyist, Tom Skancke, told the board that a lack of funding is the biggest barrier for completing a list of projects that would improve the flow of tourists to Southern Nevada.
“The Highway Trust Fund is broke and broken,” Skancke told board members.
He said lawmakers have been reluctant to raise fuel taxes to pay for highway infrastructure and that an alternative to raising taxes would be to charge tolls on highways or for the use of special traffic lanes.
When Goodman asked what she could do to help, Skancke replied, “I need a champion for the issue.”
The Nevada Legislature has considered tolling authority since 1997, Skancke said, but it has never passed. Permission has been given for the Department of Transportation to consider a pilot project for tolling on a proposed bypass around Boulder City.
Skancke told the board that he has worked to push transportation projects in other states that would be beneficial to Las Vegas tourism. He has advocated funding for the $723 million expansion of Interstate 215 in San Bernardino, Calif., and the $324 million I-215 interchange at Devore, projects that would ease traffic for Las Vegas-bound tourists.
He’s also been a proponent for the so-called High Desert Corridor, a freeway between Palmdale and Victorville, Calif., that includes a high-speed rail right-of-way. The proposed six-lane freeway would give Southern Californians an alternate route from Los Angeles to Interstate 15. He said construction on the freeway would begin in five years.
California also is on the verge of announcing the relocation of an agriculture inspection station from Yermo to just south of Primm. The station would be larger than the existing facility and would eliminate a traffic bottleneck that occurs on southbound I-15 on busy weekends.
Skancke also praised Nevada’s congressional delegation, specifically citing Sen. Harry Reid, for including the designation of the so-called Interstate 11 project in recently approved transportation legislation. The I-11 designation will enable Arizona and Nevada to receive federal funding to improve U.S. 93 between Phoenix and Las Vegas to interstate highway standards.
Skancke said it’s his goal to speed up the I-11 improvement program from 15 years to five to eight years.
Earlier in the meeting, Nevada Department of Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon gave the LVCVA the final report on the $294 million Interstate 15 widening and improvement project between Tropicana Avenue and Silverado Ranch Road.
The three-year project, completed this month, included building new ramps, 26 bridges, 35 retaining walls, 1.5 miles of sound walls and the installation of variable-message signs, ramp meters, cameras and landscaping.
The LVCVA received the report because $259.4 million in authority bonds were used to fund the project.