As Southern Nevada rebounds from the recession, it has become a community that is much more engaged and collaborative with the goal of making the Valley a better and more vibrant metropolis. Businesses, local governments and community organizations work together, now more than ever, to help improve, grow and diversify our economy.
This spirit of collaboration, genuine love for the community and deep desire to make Southern Nevada a better place was exemplified over the last 10 months, when many of the state’s leaders, organizations and local businesses joined forces with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) to support legislation and the county ordinance to index the fuel tax to inflation in Clark County for three years.
Tying the fuel tax to the rate of inflation will provide critically needed funds for transportation infrastructure projects throughout Clark County. Unlike the sales tax, which is a percentage of the total price of an item, the fuel tax is currently a fixed amount per gallon. While fuel tax rates have not been adjusted in 17 years, the cost of building streets and highways has increased significantly just like the prices of other goods and services.
It is no secret that, as a state we need to depend less on the federal government and more on cities and counties to fund infrastructure projects, including roadway and highway improvements. The funding challenges facing Nevada are no different than anywhere else. Cities and states across the country are having these same tough conversations and each community is implementing its own solutions. For Southern Nevada, the solution that proved to be the fairest, quickest and most effective option and posed the least impact on residents was indexing the fuel tax to inflation, similar to what Washoe County does in Northern Nevada.
It is important to note that this initiative is much more than just raising taxes. It’s an investment in the Southern Nevada community and economy. For the estimated dime a day that drivers will pay, the revenue raised by fuel tax indexing will support the construction of 183 regionally and locally significant transportation projects. These projects will improve the commute times of residents and visitors alike while creating thousands of jobs and helping to diversify the economy.
The impact to the community as a result of indexing will be seen almost instantaneously. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, funds from indexing will help generate up to $700 million in bonding capacity over the next three years, enabling construction of local and regionally significant transportation projects to begin as early as this coming spring.
Responsiveness in addressing community needs now and into the future is important to continued economic growth. Thanks to fuel tax indexing, Southern Nevada will be able to fund projects that will improve the daily commutes of thousands of residents, such as completing portions of the 215 Beltway in the Northwest Valley and improving Maryland Parkway and the convention district area.
It will also support the first phase of Interstate 11, a vital project to link Las Vegas to Phoenix, the only two major metropolitan areas in the United States not currently connected by an interstate. Once completed, I-11 will help prevent traffic gridlock and allow more people and products to travel safely and efficiently into the Valley, spurring increased domestic and international trade. The transportation infrastructure projects funded by fuel tax indexing will provide greater connectivity throughout the Valley and beyond, supporting business growth and quality of life.
It is a better quality of life that makes Southern Nevada attractive. People are moving to the Las Vegas Valley to raise families and grow their business. Ensuring the Valley has the jobs and infrastructure necessary to continue to attract new residents and businesses is a driving force behind the efforts of local leaders, companies and organizations that have come together to support fuel tax indexing as a short-term solution to address the transportation and economic needs of our community.
Investing in transportation infrastructure equates to investing in Nevada’s economic future. Thanks to a broad based community effort and support, fuel tax indexing will fuel the community into a future that will enhance the transportation network, diversify the economy and allow the region to compete globally.
Tina Quigley is the general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.