Nevada to get $1.3 billion in transportation money | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada to get $1.3 billion in transportation money

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Construction workers put up a sound wall on the Carson City bypass near the St. Teresa Catholic Community on Thursday morning.

Nevada will get $1.3 billion in funding for highway and other transportation projects over the next five years.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who helped write the legislation, said the base funding in the bill guarantees Nevada $260 million a year for the next six years for road, rail and bus travel as well as environmental projects related to transportation. That is an increase of $50 million annually over the state’s current share of highway funding.

In addition to its annual funding, the state will get $300 million for specific projects, he said.

Specific projects Include $10 million for the V&T Railway project and $2 million toward phase 2 of the Carson freeway. In addition, there is $8 million in the budget for a passenger ferry service at Lake Tahoe.

“And each of the projects will mean more good-paying jobs in Nevada,” Reid said.

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., said another $4 million is in the legislation to expand and improve Highway 50 between Fernley and Fallon. Nevada Department of Transportation officials say that is one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the state. It is high on NDOT’s priority list to turn it into a four-lane divided highway.

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“This transportation bill provides critical funding to meet our state’s growing needs,” he said.

Two of the biggest projects on the list are $50 million for the Hoover Dam bypass bridge and $45 million to continue work on the high-speed Maglev (magnetic levitation) train, which backers hope will one day connect Las Vegas to southern California.

Reid said the dam bypass is vital to national security and that the Maglev is the wave of the future.

“Airports are overburdened with the amount of short-haul flights and we must start reinvesting in train travel,” Reid said.

It took Congress and the president 22 months to work out the massive transportation package. Bush initially said he would veto any bill in excess of $284 billion. But many members of Congress in both parties wanted to spend more, arguing there are major needs in the states that have been put off too long. In many states, projects had to be put on hold while Congress and the President Bush tried to reach agreement.

Nevada didn’t have any major projects delayed by the lengthy negotiations. The Carson City Freeway and Interstate 580 construction between Reno and Carson City are both underway as are major projects in the Las Vegas area.

Funding to complete the second phase of the more than $250 million Carson City Freeway will be among projects considered annually during the Nevada Department of Transportation’s budget process. The budget for 2006-07 includes more than $77 million for phase 2.

NDOT Director Jeff Fontaine said he was “extremely pleased” with the legislation.

“This will allow us to continue with Nevada’s record road construction,” he said, thanking the state’s congressional delegation for their hard work to provide for Nevada’s needs.

Bush is expected to sign the legislation, which totals $286.5 billion over the next six years. That compares with $218 billion in the prior spending plan.

Technically, the money to pay for the plan is not federal money but gas and highway taxes collected in the states and redistributed by the federal government. The distribution formula was the cause of much of the delay as so-called “donor states” – those which get back less in gas tax revenue than they contribute – fought to increase their share of the pie.

The major donor states are California, Texas, Arizona and Florida. Under the bill, the minimum those states get will increase from 90.5 percent of what they contribute to 92 percent by 2008.

The other major battles centered on the “pork” projects – including those on Nevada’s list. There are an estimated $20 billion worth of those projects in the legislation.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

Partial list of Nevada projects included in the transportation legislation by U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid:

• Southern Nevada Public Transit Building acquisition – $1 million

• Henderson-Las Vegas Regional Fixed Guideway project – $32 million

• Las Vegas Resort Corridor Downtown Extension project – $16 million

• Las Vegas-Boulder Highway Bus Rapid Transit – $18 million

• Laughlin-Bullhead City Colorado River Bridge – $18 million

• Interstate 15 widening from U.S. 95 to Apex Road – $26.5 million

• Boulder City bypass extension – $26.5 million

• Virginia Street Bus Rapid Transit, Reno – $12 million

• Lake Tahoe Passenger Ferry Service – $8 million

• Lake Tahoe MPO Bus replacement – $4 million

• V&T Railway reconstruction project – $10 million

• Carson City bypass phase II – $2 million

• Rail Access Corridor Enhancement, Reno – $15 million

• Washoe County bus and bus facilities – $6.75 million

• California Trail Interpretive Center – $2 million

• Hoover Dam bypass – $50 million

• Las Vegas Maglev project – $45 million

• Widening U.S. 50 from Fernley to Fallon – $4 million

• Meadowood Mall Interchange, Reno – $1.6 million

• Interstate 80 interchange at Fernley – $7.6 million.

• Reno ReTrac enhancements – $800,000

• Reno/Sparks Intermodal Transportation Terminals – $3.3 million

• Interstate 15 interchange at Mesquite – $800,000