A growing number of Clark County local officials have been claiming Washoe County is getting a disproportionate share of highway funds that should be going to Southern Nevada.
The poster child for those complaints is the 1,725-foot-long Galena Creek Bridge on Interstate 580 between Reno and Carson City, part of a freeway project totaling well over $500 million. Every time an official from the south complaints, the bridge is mentioned.
But according to records presented to the state Board of Transportation on Monday, the perception is inaccurate. In fact, according to Nevada Department of Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon, both Washoe and Clark counties contribute some of the gas-tax money they generate to the rural counties — which, while they don’t have large tax bases, have most of the highway road miles in the state. Those highways are Interstate 80, U.S. Highway 95 and U.S. 93, all of which have most of their road miles in rural Nevada.
“We are aware there is an equity concern, but we feel we are paying attention to the needs of Southern Nevada,” he said.
He said that between 2008 and 2012, Clark generated just over 60 percent of gas-tax revenues and got 55 percent back in projects. Washoe generated 15.5 percent of the cash and got back 12.7 percent in projects.
The picture was dramatically skewed in fiscal year 2013, when Nevada’s 15 small counties soaked up more than 43 percent of highway project dollars, a total of $110.2 million. Clark got 52 percent of the cash, while Washoe got only 4.5 percent of its money back in roadway construction.
The reason, according to NDOT, is the extensive work on I-80 through Humboldt and Eureka counties, which between them soaked up 28 percent of the money.
“It appears Washoe County is actually an exporter of dollars,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval.
He said it’s necessary for Clark and Washoe to contribute to the rural counties because they “simply cannot generate the amount of money needed to maintain the highways.”
Over the years, he said, the board has almost exclusively spent its money the way the local governments around the state r ecommended it be spent.
Those decisions have always been made for the good of the state as a whole, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said.
“There has never been a regional thought put in my decisions,” he said.
The picture will change just as dramatically in Clark’s favor this fiscal year, when, Sandoval pointed, out that money heading south dwarfs the amount going to the rest of the state — nearly 66 percent, or $344.6 million. And Sandoval pointed out that doesn’t include the $100 million in bond money going toward the Las Vegas area’s Project Neon, the biggest highway project in state history at $1 billion-plus.
This fiscal year, NDOT officials show the amount going to the rural counties dropping back to 14 percent, or $80.3 million, and Washoe getting 20 percent, or $105 million.