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Thin-font Nevada license plates aren’t fakes

I’m not sure why people are so fascinated with license plates, but they are.

These hunks of aluminum that we are required to attach to our vehicles were the subject of two recent inquiries from Warrior readers:

“I have noticed that Nevada plates with the ‘ZE_’ suffix have a much thinner font than the plates that have the ‘ZA_’ suffix and the ones that have the ‘##A’ prefix (both with an old thick font),” Warrior reader Jim said.

“Some personalized plates use the thin font, too. There is also a small Nevada symbol in the center between the groups of letters. I wonder why?

“To me, the thin font is harder to read. Was this due to switching the plate factory from the Carson City prison to Ely? At first, I thought the thin font plates were fakes.”

And then, I received this inquiry:

“I recently ordered plates for a new car from the Department of Motor Vehicles online,” Warrior reader Tom said. “The plates arrived today and the letters are raised (as they were years ago) and instead of a dot separating the first and last three digits, it is separated by a small raised shape that looks like the shape of Nevada.

“The numbering is also the ‘old’ format of three numbers and three letters. Are these plates left over from years past or are these new plates made at the new manufacturing facility? Just curious.”

Jim and Tom were onto something. Yes, there’s a new manufacturing process. Yes, the type font is different. Yes, the letters and numbers are raised. Yes, that little separator between letters and numbers is in the shape of the state of Nevada.

No, they’re not made in Ely. And, no, they’re not fakes.

Jim, Tom and motorists across the state are seeing the new license plates we are all paying an extra $3 for when we register our cars at the DMV. And before too long, we will all have them because the state has tasked the agency to replace most license plates across the state over an eight-year period.

“They’re coming from our new license plate factory in Carson City,” said Kevin Malone, a spokesman for the DMV. “It’s a new facility built from the ground up.”

Malone said license plates have been manufactured at the Nevada State Prison for decades. When the prison facility was closed and replaced by the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, the new $3.8 million, 9,000-square-foot plate manufacturing facility was built outside the fence near the new center.

Sean McDonald, administrator of the DMV’s Central Services division, said the process is more efficient, but the plates are a little more expensive to produce, hence the fee increase.

It’s a two-day process to manufacture a plate, but the advantage with the new system is that two plates can be processed at once.

McDonald figures that by using 20 inmate laborers in a single eight-hour shift that the state can produce 1.25 million license plates in a year.

When the new process started in July, plates were manufactured to supply DMV offices that had a low inventory. As a result, most of the new plates are being distributed in Las Vegas and Reno while the rural DMV offices are still distributing the old version until their supplies run low.

The one snag the state has hit is in the manufacturing of custom and personalized plates, but that has been resolved, and the plant will catch up on the backlog. Motorists who have had the delivery of their personalized plates delayed have had their temporary movement permits extended.

Which reminds me of the guy who couldn’t afford to buy personalized vanity plates, so he decided to just change his name to ABC-123 instead.

But I digress.

Beginning in the middle of next year, just about all of us will begin getting the new-look plates. I say “most” because the state won’t be replacing the sesquicentennial and old-school blue plates that motorists have paid a premium for.

For those who have the common sunset design plates, the DMV will start distributing the new version beginning July 1. The department has records that show how long an individual has possessed a plate, so the DMV will begin replacing the oldest ones first and establish a program to replace every plate every eight years.

“When you’re due for replacement, we’ll mail you an identical pair of plates along with your registration,” Malone said.

Well, not exactly identical. They will be the cool new versions.

McDonald said that when the replacement program takes effect, a second shift of inmate laborers will be put to work.

By the way, the inmate laborers are paid a stipend and get time credited to reduce their sentences. But McDonald said the best part of using inmate labor is that inmates learn new manufacturing and printing skills that they can apply when they are released from incarceration.

Gas prices

Hopefully, all of you saw colleague Jennifer Robison’s scientific breakdown on Sept. 6 of why gasoline costs what it does in Southern Nevada.

Dozens of Warrior readers have complained about the price disparity between Southern Nevada — supplied by California refineries — and Northern Nevada — supplied by Utah refineries.

The analysts Robison spoke with say gas prices will dip below $3 within weeks.

No one around here can remember when the average price of a gallon of unleaded regular was higher in Las Vegas than it was statewide. But for the fourth straight week, that’s what has happened.

Let’s hope the analysts are right because it’s an embarrassment to pay less for gasoline in Dayton and Yerington than in Las Vegas as I did over the Labor Day weekend.

Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter @RJroadwarrior.


■ Streets leading to the intersection of Rollingwood Drive and Autumn Street will be restricted through Sept. 30 for sewer line construction work. Lanes will be affected Mondays through Fridays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

■ Ramps and lanes will be closed along U.S. Highway 95 this week for routine bridge inspections. The right lane and shoulder of U.S. 95 north from Las Vegas Boulevard to the Interstate 15 south onramp will be closed from 8 p.m. Monday through 4 a.m. Tuesday. The left lane and shoulder of northbound U.S. 95 north between Bonanza Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard will be closed from 8 p.m. Tuesday through 4 a.m. Wednesday. The Veterans Memorial onramp to northbound U.S. 95 will be closed from 8 p.m. Wednesday through 4 a.m. Thursday. The left lane and shoulder of southbound U.S. 95 from Martin Luther King to Eastern Avenue will be closed from 8 p.m. Thursday through 4 a.m. Friday.

■ Work is shifting on the Oak Meadows Storm Drain and Oakey Sewer Rehabilitation projects with restrictions on vehicle access to El Parque Avenue from Decatur Boulevard through Sept. 21.

■ Road maintenance is planned on Nellis Boulevard in both directions between Stewart Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard from 8 a.m. Wednesday through 2 p.m. Sept. 25. Crews will be filling in road surface cracks, resulting in lane restrictions, but two lanes in each direction will be open.

■ Craig Road will be restricted to two lanes in each direction at Simmons Street for a water drainage project. There is no access to Simmons either north or south of Craig. Restrictions on Craig and north of Craig on Simmons will continue through September, and the entire project will be completed in February.

■ Overnight lane restrictions are planned on Rampart Boulevard between Canyon Run and Alta drives through mid-September for a sewer line project, repaving and restriping. The project is an expansion of planned work between Lake Mead Boulevard and Canyon Run.

■ Lane restrictions will be in place on northbound and southbound Bermuda Road at Windmill Lane from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, through Sept. 30. One lane will be open in each direction, and sewer line work will be along the center of the street.

■ Fifth Street in North Las Vegas is closed between Cheyenne Avenue and Losee Road through February for the construction of an overpass route that will connect Fifth to East Carey Avenue.

■ Restrictions will be in place through February on Lamb Boulevard between Wyoming Avenue and Vegas Valley Drive on a water pipeline rehabilitation project. Lamb will be reduced to one lane in each direction, and left turns will be prohibited. Two lanes will be open in each direction during daylight hours. Work is scheduled Sundays through Thursdays, 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

■ The ramp connecting Sunset Road to the southbound Airport Connector is closed through fall 2016. Traffic lanes and shoulders will be restricted on the Airport Connector between the 215 Beltway and the airport tunnel through mid-2016 for the construction of a flyover lane from the southbound connector to the eastbound Beltway.

Gasoline prices

The average gasoline price Friday in the Las Vegas Valley was $3.17 per gallon. It was $3.08 in Nevada. The national average of $2.35 is down 7 cents from a week ago, down 23 cents from a month ago and down $1.07 from a year ago.

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