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State senator pitches gas tax to ease Project Neon congestion

CA RSON CITY — Las Vegans will face 10 years of traffic jams once the Nevada Department of Transportation starts work on the $1.8 billion Project Neon, a senator said Thursday.

Project Neon “is going to destroy downtown Las Vegas, the stretch between Sahara Avenue and the Spaghetti Bowl,” state Sen. Tick Segerblom said.

The Las Vegas Democrat said the timetable can be cut in half if his Senate Bill 377 becomes law. The bill would impose a 2 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase per year for 10 years. The tax, now 52.2 cents per gallon, would rise to 72.2 cents by the end of the decade.

But another bill backed by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada calls for a separate tax increase of about 3 cents per gallon per year.

Project Neon is planned to reduce congestion in downtown Las Vegas through a series of flyovers and additional lanes on Interstate 15. Land purchases are progressing.

No vote was taken on Segerblom’s proposal, and none has been taken on the RTC tax. Both gasoline tax bills face poor odds of approval because of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s no-new-taxes vow, which is supported by Republican legislators.

Segerblom said the new tax was “meaningless” for the average consumer and would bring in $3 billion over 10 years.

Carolyn Kelly, representing the national transportation research group TRIP, said approval is urgent because bad roads and bridges already cost Nevada drivers $2.1 billion a year in added costs.

She said that Nevada roads are “full of potholes” and 56 percent Southern Nevada roads are in poor or mediocre shape.

“Roads essentially are beating up your vehicles,” Kelly said.

Paul Enos, director of the Nevada Trucking Association, agreed with the bill. He said the average cost of fuel per truck will increase $330 a year with the new tax. He called that “not a substantial hit.”

But Carolyn Howell, the owner of a Carson City trucking company, spoke out against the bill. She said the tax increase would induce truckers to avoid Nevada truck stops. Instead of tax increases, legislators should look at cutting expenditures, she said.

Western State Petroleum Association lobbyist John Sande said legislators first need to study new ways of funding road construction before embarking on 10 years of gasoline tax increases.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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