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Business Council offers to lead coalition

by Christy Chalmers

The Douglas County Regional Transportation Commission meets once a month to adjourn.

By law, the three-member group has to convene. In reality, the board often has nothing to meet about. So the RTC, whose membership includes two county commissioners, usually holds its meetings during county commission meetings, when the rest of the board wants a coffee break.

But those meetings could get a lot more meaningful if the county pursues an offer from the Business Council of Douglas County to start developing a long-term transportation plan, using a public-private partnership that the Business Council is offering to lead.

“I think the commissioners will find this a safe, comfortable approach,” said Suzanne Rosevold, executive director of the Business Council. “We don’t believe it’s all the government’s problem. We think it’s a community issue we can all address.”

The first address may come Thursday, when the county commission considers the Business Council’s offer to form a transit coalition.

The offer grew out of the Business Council’s recent Critical Issues Conference, which this year focused on roads and transportation issues. Douglas County administrators say the county is running out of money to pay for existing roads, let alone new ones.

Rosevold said the Business Council is following the lead of Washoe and Clark counties, which established public-private groups that successfully developed transportation plans and the money to implement them.

Rosevold said the business group can help sell elements like the nickel-per-gallon gas tax that Douglas voters knocked off the tax rolls in 1994. Though she and county leaders say there’s no chance the tax could be sent before voters for possible reinstatement this year, they acknowledge it will come back.

“No one wants an ugly fight over a tax,” said Rosevold. “We feel bad that the timing wasn’t right with the tax, but rather than jump on it and do a bad job, we want to do things right.”

She says the better approach is to craft a transit plan that outlines major roads, public transportation and other infrastructure that will keep traffic moving in Douglas County.

The gesture is welcomed by Commissioner Don Miner, who recently asked the county commission to schedule a discussion on transit issues, a request that coincided with the Business Council’s new interest in the topic.

“I’m delighted they are taking an active role,” he said. “I think you will find that you get more mileage out of a citizen group that is pushing an effort like this than a government group that is pulling one.”

He thinks a basic plan showing the county’s long-term transit needs could be done in a year. After that, the business of funding the work – including selling the 5-cent gas tax – can get under way.

“We need to keep it on the radar screen,” said Miner. “We’re on the same path of increased congestion as Carson City was 10 years ago, and we must be thinking now what our road system will look like in eight or 10 years to not repeat the Carson experience.”

What: Douglas County commissioners will consider a way to address long-term transportation issues.

When: Thursday, 1:30 p.m.

Place: County administration building, 175 Highway 50, Stateline

Info: 782-9020