Fuel indexing critical to county’s future
November 4, 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 maintaining a financially strong community.
Douglas County has been struggling to maintain its roadway system for decades and it is apparent that without new sources of revenue, the community will fall only further behind on maintaining our streets in a serviceable condition.
This November, Douglas County has a chance to catch up with DC1, a ballot measure that was initiated 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 whether to consider fuel indexing to raise badly needed funds for road maintenance and repair in their county.
The funding environment for our infrastructure is punctuated by the fact that Federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993, the State fuel tax has not been increased since 1992. 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.
DC1 could add up to 3 cent to the fuel taxes collected at the pump each year. For a typical sedan that gets 20 mpg. and travels 15,000 miles a year, this 3 cents adds about $2 a month — money that can only be used on the maintenance and rehabilitation of our streets and highways.
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Another key element of funding that is addressed in DC1 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.
DC1 could provide our county with 33 percent more funds annually to maintain its 178 lane miles of paved roads, which a University of Nevada PAVER study shows that 4 out of every 10 miles in very poor to failed condition. DC1 expedites intersection safety improvements at SR88/Centerville as well as SR756/Waterloo at Lampe. Another key capacity improvement would be connecting the Muller Parkway North with Heybourne Road to alleviate congestion at US395 and Buckeye Intersection.
This is a 10-year program that is tied to the Construction Price Index, though it will never exceed up to an annual rate of 3 cents. Over those 10 years, Douglas County's highways, streets and roads could expect nearly $28 million in new revenues.
DC 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 (restricted to a maximum of 3 cents per year).
Creates jobs, generates economic activity, and provides infrastructure investments that benefit the entire community.
DC1 has been endorsed by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce whose members understand the connection between healthy business and healthy roads. To learn more about the fuel tax measure in Douglas County and other counties log on to http://www.fixnvroads.org.
Bobbi Thompson is Minden-Tahoe Airport Manager and president of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce