To the editor:
There have been numerous misleading allegations regarding disparate state funding for roads in Nevada. As director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight what my department is doing for Southern Nevada.
I began my career with NDOT in 1984 as an inspector on the Flamingo Road interchange at Interstate 15 and as an assistant resident engineer. I was the sole representative of NDOT on privately funded projects at the Colorado River Bridge in Laughlin and the Summerlin Parkway interchange at U.S. 95. Prior to my appointment as NDOT director last summer, I was proud to call Las Vegas home for 19 years.
As a Las Vegas resident, I was – and remain – well aware of the transportation issues facing Southern Nevada.
Much of the recent debate has focused on funding allocations for each portion of the state. Based on fuel sales between fiscal years 2008-2012, about 61 percent of statewide fuel taxes are generated in Clark County and about 55 percent of NDOT’s capital improvement program has been spent in Clark County. However, that figure rises to 80 percent for Clark County when we only consider the capacity projects that widen freeway lanes and construct new interchanges and new bridges.
Over the past 12 years, NDOT has funded or constructed the following major transportation projects in Southern Nevada: improvements to I-15 in the urban area, approximately $620 million; improvements to U.S. 95 in the urban area, approximately $640 million; improvements to other major routes in the urban area, approximately $240 million; improvements to I-15 outside the urban area, approximately $205 million.
Without including several other repaving projects that NDOT has completed, the above projects amount to $1.7 billion dollars of investment in capacity improvements to the transportation system in Clark County since 2001.
Currently, NDOT is working on the first phase — between Henderson and Boulder City — of the proposed Interstate 11 that will ultimately connect Phoenix and Las Vegas. The I-11 corridor is being studied for potential extension between Mexico and Northern Nevada, and points north, to provide congestion relief and economic opportunities in Southern Nevada and more efficient connections to the rest of the country. In addition, the transportation board has already approved the initial phases of Project Neon. This investment will commit nearly $500 million for widening I-15 from Sahara Avenue to the Spaghetti Bowl, connecting the U.S. 95 high-occupancy vehicle lanes to the I-15 express lanes, and reconstructing the Charleston Boulevard Interchange on I-15.
I realize it may be popular for some to deliberately drive a wedge between the north and the south, using the I-580 project as a symbol of inequity. However, it is important to note that this project was planned more than 30 years ago and approved nearly two decades ago. Moreover, it does not accurately reflect current priorities or where resources for road construction have been directed over the past few years.
I am proud that NDOT has worked collaboratively with federal, state and local partners to deliver these projects in Southern Nevada. My department is also grateful for the support of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for the nearly $300 million in funding provided for the improvements to I-15 in the last few years. Moving forward, there is much work to be done in Southern Nevada. As director, I remain committed to working with residents and stakeholders to ensure Southern Nevada’s roads remain open, safe and accessible.
The writer is director of the Nevada Department of Transportation.