NDOT officials told the transportation board on Monday that unless Congress reauthorizes the federal transportation funding act by the end of September, highway projects including the final phase of the Carson bypass could be delayed two years or more.
Department of Transportation engineers said just last week that they expected to go out to bid on paving the final stretch of the bypass this next winter.
But assistant NDOT directors John Terry and Robert Nellis told the board headed by Gov. Brian Sandoval if Congress doesn’t act by Sept. 30, a laundry list of projects will be put on hold with federal funding dropping from an expected $320 million to zero in 2015.
Terry said the federal government has been basically spending more every year than the 18.5 cent a gallon federal gas tax generates. He said the plan to skip funding to the states for a year would bring the budget back within the amount of revenue the tax generates.
“We couldn’t obligate anything new,” said Terry. “No categories would get any money in 2015.”
Nellis said the state might consider bridging the money gap with state funds for about three months.
They urged the board to join in signing a letter urging Nevada’s congressional delegation to push for speedy reauthorization of federal transportation funding. That proposed letter says an estimated 6,000 jobs would vanish in Nevada if Congress doesn’t act.
In addition, it says: “Critical projects such as completion of the Carson City bypass, widening of U.S. 95 (in Las Vegas) and widening of I-15 would be delayed by at least two years.”
Board member Tom Skancke urged the board to send as strong a message to Nevada’s congressional delegation as possible. He said with the election season rapidly approaching, Congress really only has until the end of June to act.
“I’m not sure the federal government can be relied on going forward,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and Controller Kim Wallin said the letter should come from the entire board, not just the NDOT director, to give it more weight and urgency.
Terry said after the meeting the only two projects that would be kept whole if Congress fails to act are Project NEON and the Boulder City bypass.
“The Carson bypass would be delayed but, boy, are we ready to go if it is not,” he said.
Bypass project manager Stephen Lani said Friday it will take about $42 million to pave the final stretch of the bypass, reconnecting the freeway to U.S. 395 at Spooner Junction. If he can get the contract awarded in the spring of 2015, he said it should be completed by the fall of 2016.
But if Congress doesn’t act, the state won’t be able to award that contract until at least 2017, pushing back completion of the bypass until 2019 or later.
The bypass is one of numerous projects that would be on hold.
Gov. Brian Sandoval emphasized that it isn’t NDOT potentially causing the delay.
“It’s not us,” he said. “It’s Washington.”
The board voted to send that letter immediately.