EDITORIAL: Highway funding fairness

Well, that only took, what, nearly 150 years?

A report issued Monday by the Nevada Department of Transportation shows Clark County finally will get its fair share of state highway funding this fiscal year. That amounts to $344 million in federal, state and local tax revenue, almost two-thirds of NDOT’s total budget.

The Las Vegas Valley is the state’s economic engine. Clark County has about three-quarters of the state’s population, produces more than 60 percent of the state’s fuel tax revenues and has 99 percent of Nevada’s worst traffic choke points (give or take a percentage point). Southern Nevada has many billions of dollars worth of highway projects that are needed today — to say nothing of urban surface streets — but won’t be funded for at least 10 years.

Of course, Clark County has so many highway needs because it has been subsidizing highway maintenance and upgrades across the rest of the state throughout its population boom. The Reno area and rural Nevada benefited from projects that kept up with or got ahead of future traffic demand while the Las Vegas Valley’s roads fell further and further behind. Most notably, thanks to the juice of Northern Nevada lawmakers, NDOT built the economically unessential, bridge-laden, $550 million Interstate 580 extension in the mountains between Reno and Carson City, a route that gets less traffic than a suburban Las Vegas interchange at lunchtime.

Even last year, Clark County received just 52 percent of the state’s highway funding while rural counties received 43.6 percent. It has taken many years of howling — and being stuck in traffic — but NDOT and its board finally appear to understand the severity of the problem in Southern Nevada.

Between 2014 and 2018, the Review-Journal’s Sean Whaley reported Tuesday, the state will spend $500 million on I-15’s Project Neon through downtown Las Vegas and $125 million on the Boulder City bypass. Some of the projects funded by this year’s budget include the $32 million widening of U.S. Highway 95 in the far northwest valley; $11 million to upgrade the I-15 interchange at the northern Las Vegas Beltway; and $52 million for a flyover between the airport connector and the beltway.

The transportation board, headed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, deserves Southern Nevada’s thanks for finally ending this regional funding inequity — one of many, including K-12 and higher education, that can’t ever resume.

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