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July 28, 2015

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Senate bill seeks toll road around Boulder City

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Justin M. Bowen

Traffic leaving town gathers on U.S. 93 near the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge outside Boulder City on Friday, Feb. 25, 2011.

Boulder City Traffic

Traffic leaves town heading toward Henderson on U.S. 93 near Veterans Memorial Drive in Boulder City on Friday, Feb. 25, 2011. Launch slideshow »

CARSON CITY — Construction of a $400 million bypass to relieve traffic in Boulder City could cost the state very little — if it were built as a toll road.

The Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday heard witness after witness testify about traffic snarls that could be as long as 10 miles plaguing Boulder City, and there was unanimous support for building the 14.5 mile bypass.

State Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, is pushing SB-214 to require the state Department of Transportation to join with a private partner to finance the work.

The state already has spent $30 million on studies and an environmental impact statement.

Hardy told the committee that a representative from a private company approached him and said the firm would be willing to finance the $400 million project. And there are other investors with billions of dollars looking for good place to put their money, he said.

But he can’t talk to them because toll roads are not permitted in Nevada.

Since the new Hoover Dam bypass bridge has been open, traffic has increased through the city and created the bottleneck.

Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler said the problem has hurt economic activity in the city, and there has been an increase in accidents.

Pressed by Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, Scott Rawlins of the Department of Transportation said a preliminary estimate of the toll might be 50 cents or $1. He stressed these were early estimates and there would be no difference in fees between trucks and cars.

Transportation Director Susan Martinovich told the committee that it plans a $10 million road-widening project this summer on U.S. 93 to help ease the traffic problem.

Carole Vilardo of the Nevada Taxpayers Association said she did not view the proposed toll as a tax. A motorist, she said, has a choice whether to spend the money to drive around the city.

She said the association has been supportive of toll roads with safeguards.

Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, said he has always been hesitant about tolls roads. He wanted assurance that tolling would not be expanded to Interstate 15 or U.S. 95.

Hardy told him the tolling in SB-214 applies only to this project.

The bill permits tolls to vary during the course of the day or week. Cameras and other mechanisms could be used to make sure motorists pay, instead of requiring them to stop at a booth.

The committee did not take any action.

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