Mark Turner: Carson City Question 1: Overdue support for maintaining transportation infrastructure
November 2, 2016
Roads and highways play a vital role in a community's ability to function safely and efficiently. A healthy transportation system has the added benefit of encouraging economic growth and a financially strong community.
Carson City has been struggling to maintain its roadway system for decades and in numerous public meetings held this year under the auspices of the Transportation Resource Advisory Forum for Carson City (TRAFCC) it was apparent that without new sources of revenue, the community will fall only further behind on maintaining our streets in a serviceable condition.
This November, Carson City has a chance to catch up with CC1, a ballot measure that was instigated by the Nevada Legislature to address transportation shortfalls in every county but Washoe, which has already adopted its own fuel tax indexing. The state's remaining County Boards will ask voters to consider fuel indexing to raise badly needed funds for road maintenance and repair in their county.
The funding environment for Carson City streets has been defined by neglect. The Federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993, the State fuel tax has not been increased since 1992, and the local fuel tax has not increased since 1997. However, over these many years, the cost of building and maintaining streets and highways has increased significantly just like the prices of other goods and services. Just think about what you have to pay for a new home today versus a new home in 1992.
In the meantime, Nevada has experienced the largest increase in vehicle miles traveled of any state in the union since 1990. Additionally, during this period we have seen the proliferation of high mileage and electric vehicles that use half or even a third the fuel of vehicles from the past. That means that drivers are traveling further on Nevada's roads and paying less fuel tax per mile than ever before.
Carson City's road repair and rehabilitation needs are well documented and go beyond the downtown Carson Street renovation which was funded with its own special tax increment.
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There are 273 miles of paved roads in Carson City, about 51 million square feet. The City's Pavement Management Program indicates 38 miles are currently in very poor to failed condition. Failed roads cannot be overlaid with new asphalt or slurry sealed, they need to be completely torn out and rebuilt from the roadbed up. At the current rate of funding, 9 cents per gallon, the very poor to failed category will increase to 225 miles in the next few years. This fact is backed up by national studies sponsored by a national nonprofit transportation research group based in Washington, DC., that found delaying construction of projects for just five years will cause a 26.4% increase in the cost of the project.
CC1 will add 3 cent to the fuel taxes collected at the pump. For a typical sedan that gets 20 mpg and travels 15,000 miles a year, this adds about $2 a month — money that can ONLY be used on the maintenance and rehabilitation of our streets and highways.
Another key element of funding that is addressed in CC1 is that we do not currently receive a share of the diesel tax despite the fact that 32 percent of all heavy truck traffic in Nevada is on local roads, according to the Nevada Association of Counties. Indexing would return a portion of the federal diesel tax to the county where the fuel was purchased.
This is a 10-year program that is tied to the Construction Price Index, though it will never exceed an annual rate of 3 cents. Over those 10 years, Carson City's highways, streets and roads can expect nearly $70 million in new revenues.
CC 1 has many benefits:
Optimizing transportation systems provides for shorter and safer commutes and less air pollution.
Reduced road repair and maintenance because roads will be fixed properly the first time.
Driving on rough and damaged roads costs Nevada motorists a total of $812 million annually in extra vehicle operating costs, according to TRIP. Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear
No inflation, the rate does not go up.
Creates jobs, generates economic activity, and provides infrastructure investments that benefit the entire community.
To learn more about the fuel tax measure in Carson City and other counties log on to http://www.fixnvroads.org. To see the condition of Carson City's roads go to http://www.carson.org and navigate to public works/transportation.