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Are Toll Roads The Way Forward For Nevada?

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(AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

A motorist tosses coins for a toll road in Maine. Most coin-operated booths have been replaced with e-zpass technology.

Solving traffic issues across our state is an age-old problem.

Southern Nevada faces gridlock as the area continues to expand. Northern Nevada's geography makes road construction and rehab trickier.

But the appetite for taxes, which help build our roads, is weak. One potential solution? Toll roads.

Tom Skancke is a lobbyist and transportation expert who thinks toll roads could be a great way for Nevada to help improve its infrastructure.

"What I'm suggesting is that more states around the country and particularly in the West -- in the Intermountain West -- have a serious conversation about more toll lanes," he said.

Skancke said one of the reasons toll lanes need to be on the table is because of a lack of fuel tax funds. He said the fuel tax hasn't been raised since 1993 and money from the tax only started pouring into the highway fund in 2005. He said that is one of the reasons infrastructure is failing around the country. 

"What I'm suggesting is, not just here in the state of Nevada, but across the country, we've got to start having a legitimate conversation about how we fund our infrastructure," he said. "And I gotta tell you -- it's not going to happen in Washington, D.C.

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He believes the country needs to be looking at all kinds of transportation solutions, from toll roads to high-speed rail, and all the different ways to pay for them.

"This is America! We should be paying for the stuff that we use!" he exclaimed."Our parents and grandparents paid for an interstate system that our generation has let crumble."

Skancke argues that America cannot compete with other countries and move its economy forward on "failing infrastructure systems." Beyond just wanting the improvements, he believes it is 'immoral' to borrow money from other countries to pay for it.

And in Nevada, he doesn't believe taxes to pay for transportation improvements should be pushed onto tourists.

"If we're going to drive on our roads, we should pay for it," he said.

He pointed to the problems after the recession when state and local tax revenues dropped considerably as tourists stopped coming to Las Vegas. Skancke believes toll lanes could be used on Interstate 15 all the way to San Diego, and along the new Interstate 11 to Phoenix. 

While his article focused on toll lanes in the western United States, what he really wanted to do was start a national conversation about how the country pays for infrastructure.

"The demand and the need for more infrastructure in America [are] there," Skancke said. "We have neglected our interstate highway and our national highway system for the past 30 years."

(Editor's Note: This interview originally aired May 2017)

Guests

Tom Skancke, transportation expert

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