Among the burning questions that emerged a few weeks ago when it was announced with great fanfare that traffic signals would be built in the vicinity of the Wet ’n’ Wild water park in southwest Las Vegas was why are taxpayers on the hook for the cost and what took Clark County so long to get around to dealing with the traffic issue.
It’s easy to understand some of the confusion. The county and the Regional Transportation Commission have been very public about projects that are built with fuel indexing funds, that extra chunk of money that is being generated by higher gasoline taxes. More fuel indexing projects are on the horizon, with four more to be announced later this week in North Las Vegas.
The amount of the tax fluctuates based on a 10-year rolling average of the producer price index. On July 1, we’ll see it rise to 6.6 cents a gallon from the current 3.25 cents. By the way, there’s a ceiling on how high it can go — 10 cents — during the three-year period indexing is in place until Dec. 31, 2016. It’s also possible that the tax could go down if producer prices fall, but that’s highly unlikely since the rate is based on a 10-year average, and prices have risen steadily over the years.
Government officials have been anxious to remind us any time a project is built with fuel tax indexing funds, presumably because they want to show how important some of these improvements are to quality of life and it’s never too early to begin campaigning for an extension.
Although the Wet ’n’ Wild traffic signals were billed as a fuel indexing project and most of the cost comes from gas taxes motorists pay, the reality is that some of the cost is being shared by other entities, including Summerlin’s developers, the Howard Hughes Corp., which leases the land to Wet ’n’ Wild. Howard Hughes Corp. spokesman Tom Warden said Summerlin was required by Clark County to fund improvements well before Wet ’n’ Wild was ever built.
“The cost of peripheral improvements is based on how much traffic our community is going to generate,” Warden said.
The $1.1 million project will result in new signals on Fort Apache Road at Maule Avenue and at Warm Springs Road, replacing four-way stop signs.
The new traffic lights are scheduled to go live by mid-July.
So why did it take so long? Local municipalities have priority lists for various important but nonessential projects, and the traffic signals were one of those that made the cut after the fuel indexing was approved. Some might argue that the traffic signals should have been a higher priority, especially since they are in a neighborhood where schoolchildren cross busy Fort Apache Road to get to Faiss Middle School and the new Faiss Park.
Incidentally, another traffic generator is coming to the region. Ground soon will be broken on a new aquatic center near the park that will make the area a year-round attraction for water recreation.
Priority lists for improvements also are playing out at another Southern Nevada water park.
Cowabunga Bay is on Galleria Drive east of U.S. Highway 95. Its main entrance will be at Eastgate Road, which might someday need a traffic signal to accommodate the park as well as the neighborhood south of it.
“The City of Henderson is holding off on street improvements on Galleria until the major developments begin,” said Shane Huish, co-owner of Cowabunga Bay, which is scheduled to open July 4. “I believe there is a large medical center going in off Gibson as well as a large residential development down Galleria.”
WHAT’S THE DELAY?
Warrior reader Mary Ann is wondering what happened to a street project she was assured was on track for completion.
“About eight or nine months ago, I wrote requesting information on the area of Stephanie Street between Russell and Sunset roads. The Road Warrior wrote at that time that it was in the works and would be started in approximately four to five months from then.
“It is now about nine months since that time, and the road just keeps getting more difficult to miss the deep potholes and huge cracks. Can you give me some type of update or even a real scheduled date for repair? This is just awful to drive on.”
The city of Henderson has an answer for you, Mary Ann, but it probably isn’t the answer you’re going to want to hear — you still have more than six months to wait.
“The refurbishment of Stephanie Street from Russell Road to Sunset Road was rolled into a larger project that includes the widening of the Stephanie Street bridge over U.S. Highway 95,” spokesman Keith Paul said.
“At this time, the contractor is in the process of being selected and work should begin in January,” he said. “The original work of the rehab of Stephanie Street was pushed back when it was included in the larger project. It made sense to move the Stephanie Street rehab in with the larger project so that the rehab work was not compromised by the larger construction project.”
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