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RTC approves $633 million budget

With fuel and sales tax revenue plateauing, the Regional Transportation Commission unanimously approved a $633 million budget Thursday, about 1 percent below current spending levels.

As with most every government entity this year, the RTC has seen projected tax revenue fall below expectations.

According to transportation commission officials, fuel tax revenue has risen by less than $1 million annually since 2007, and the projections for 2009 are no different.

Sales tax revenue is expected to be flat between 2008 and 2009, coming in at $174.5 million each year.

Still, the transportation commission has more than $329 million ready to dole out for highway improvement projects to local and state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Conversion of the 53-mile Las Vegas Beltway into a freeway continues to top the list. The looping roadway is expected to be completed in 2013 at a cost of more than $1 billion.

Other budget-winning projects include the new Galleria interchange with U.S. Highway 95 in Henderson; improvements to Lamb Boulevard from Interstate 15 to the Beltway in the north valley; the North Fifth Street overpass project; widening of Decatur Boulevard from Warm Springs Road to the Beltway; and the realignment of Casino Center Boulevard and Third Street.

Several transit projects will move forward, including construction of the Sunset Road bus maintenance facility, park-and-ride facilities at Durango Drive and U.S. 95 and at Durango and Westcliff Drive, and the ACE bus downtown connector.

On Thursday, the transportation commission also locked in a "hedged" fuel price of $3.65 per gallon from the finance company J.P. Morgan, hoping to save money in 2009 as fuel prices continue to soar.

Last fiscal year, the hedged fuel price was $2.17 per gallon, and through April the commission has saved nearly $1.8 million through its hedged purchase of fuel.

The commission has been hedging fuel prices since 2003.

So far, 2007 has been the only year the commission has paid more than the market price.

Over the years that the commission has hedged fuel prices, it has saved $3.27 million.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904.

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