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Fuel Tax Measure Approval Assures Transportation Project Funding

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Voters approved Question 5, which keeps fuel tax indexing in place to pay for road construction, but what does that really mean?

Clark County voters opted for more construction cones and road projects last week by approving a ballot measure that pegs the Clark County fuel tax to inflation.

By a 56 percent to 44 percent margin, voters kept in place for the next decade a fuel tax rate that rises with cost of living

The passage of Question 5 was part of a trend that saw approval of more than 70 percent of the transit measures that were on the ballot across the country.

In Southern Nevada, approval of fuel tax indexing assures funding for nearly 200 road projects that might not have happened had inflation eroded the buying power of the tax revenues.

The head of the Regional Transportation Commission, Tina Quigley, told KNPR's State of Nevada that the money can only be used for infrastructure for automobiles.

The projects the money will fund will be focused on improving safety, alleviating congestion, speeding up maintenance and increasing connectivity.

One of the first big projects to alleviate congestion will be to expand the 215 Beltway between Pecos Road and Windmill Lane. A project designed to increase connectivity will be completion of the Centennial Bowl in the valley's northwest side.

Quigley said all of the work over the next few years will be coordinated through the Regional Project Coordination Committee, which brings together different agencies from the water authority to reclamation to developers to make sure construction projects are coordinated so drivers don't have to battle construction zone after construction zone.

Support comes from

Passage of the measure puts some transportation questions to rest, but others remain. A study is currently under way on the viability of constructing an elevated highway from McCarran International Airport to the Strip.

The elevated highway idea is something urban development expert Robert Lang with Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute at UNLV is strongly opposed to.

"I think you need widening of highways through corridors that are intended for interstate travel, but when you're talking about taking a fire hose of traffic and directing it at the Strip and building a technology that only displaces traffic and congestion and doesn't solve it, I don't think that's a good outcome"

Lang called an elevated highway a "millennial repellent technology" and said cities around the country are tearing down elevated highways not building them. 

Lang strongly supports light rail, especially in some of the valley's most congested areas like along Maryland Parkway. He said rail stations actually attract growth and the fixed nature of rail lines is what makes it a great idea.

"Rail is a city building technology because people invest around the station's because they know they can count on that service," he said.

Quigley believes a solution to traffic and congestion on the Strip and off is not an either elevated highway or light rail, but a combination of both.

She said that before an elevated highway is constructed the county will do its research, even though it already has $200 million banked for the project.

"The have assured us that they're going to give this project a fair shake and really make sure that it is the best use of that money," she said. 

The big question for a light rail system in Southern Nevada will also be money. Federal grants can help pay for a portion of the costs, and sales tax might make up some of it.

However, Quigley said the cost of light rail is being assessed, and she is not sure grants and sales tax will be enough to pay for the whole system.

Lang believes Las Vegas must have a conversation about improving traffic flow, especially in the resort corridor, because cities that we compete with are not just talking about it but are addressing it.

"The city we're competing with within the United States are investing heavily with this stuff and we're on an island called Las Vegas, by ourselves," he said, "We're the only ones not in this conversation."

Guests

Tina Quigley; general manager, Regional Transportation Commission; Robert Lang, urban development expert, Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV

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