Mo’ road money for Reno

Remember that promise from Nevada Department of Transportation officials to better prioritize highway improvement projects? You know, the one made to reassure gridlock-fatigued Southern Nevada drivers that the agency’s limited resources would be spent based on need, not parochial concerns?

Well, that pledge apparently didn’t apply to all the Reno-area pork they managed to push to the front of the queue before the 2007 Legislature — when NDOT had to go begging to lawmakers for billions of dollars in new revenue for critical Clark County upgrades.

Las Vegans are all too familiar with the half-billion dollars being spent on a brand-spanking-new highway and extravagant bridges in the mountains between Reno and Carson City.

That “economic development” project, which will one day carry about as much traffic as Oakey Boulevard, had been in the pipeline too long to be scrapped, we’ve been assured.

Now, as the state scrounges for money to boost capacity on Interstate 15, NDOT is designing major improvements for northbound U.S. Highway 395 in the heart of Reno. Work on the $70 million project is expected to begin early next year.

“This is the busiest stretch of highway in Northern Nevada,” NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder said. Which is to say traffic backs up for 10 minutes each morning and each evening.

How bad can Reno traffic get? Picture Las Vegas Valley roads at 4 a.m. on a Sunday — minus most of the taxicabs.

If NDOT wants to rescue its credibility with the state’s economic breadbasket and population base, it will find a way to scrap the U.S. 395 dressing and redirect those funds to high-priority projects in Clark County.

And if Washoe County residents want improvements that ensure they never have to slow down on their lightly used highways, they should consider raising their sales tax to pay for them, just as Clark County voters have done — twice.

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