Fontaine named head of NDOT |

Fontaine named head of NDOT

by Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

Jeff Fontaine was named director of the Nevada Department of Transportation on Tuesday.

Gov. Kenny Guinn said the state could embark on a nationwide search to replace Tom Stephens, who announced his retirement Jan. 30. But Guinn said he believes the state has an employee more than capable of doing an excellent job in Fontaine, who was Stephens’ deputy and has been acting director.

He said naming Fontaine would ensure “a seamless transition” and that he has already made some good changes in the operation of the department.

Fontaine said his first action will be to ask lawmakers to approve a second deputy director to be based in Las Vegas. He said that will give Southern Nevada road projects more direct attention.

As director, he will oversee a department with 1,600 employees and an annual budget of more than $600 million. NDOT designs, builds and maintains roads and bridges throughout the state.

“We’re about to embark on the most aggressive highway work program in the history of Nevada,” Guinn said. “These projects will ease traffic congestion and create new jobs.”

Fontaine said the state will go to bid this summer on the next phase of the Carson City freeway, completing the road from Lakeview Hill to Highway 50 for about $90 million. Also on this summer’s list are the Henderson spaghetti bowl and construction of the Nevada approach to the Hoover Dam bypass bridge. Bids will also be accepted this summer on adding another lane to U.S. 95 at Rainbow Bend in Las Vegas. Together more than $500 million in highway improvements are scheduled to begin by fall.

Fontaine, 48, has been deputy director of NDOT since 1995. Before that, he was supervisor of Public Health Engineering for the state health division for eight years and prior to that an environmental engineer for the federal Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco. He is a registered professional engineer in Nevada and California.

The director’s position pays about $100,000 a year. Fontaine was nominated for the position by Guinn and approved by the directors of Nevada’s Board of Transportation. He will take over June 6.