Nevada panel talks tolls

| 2/7/2006

Privatized toll roads could be in Nevada’s future according to a consultant studying the state’s highway needs and how to make up for funding shortfalls.

Consultant Dwight Bower told a state task force that negotiating a public-private partnership might be the way to go to pay for roadwork, The Associated Press reported. Such partnerships to allow private businesses to operate toll roads are sprouting up across the U.S. Some are drawing criticism because foreign companies are profiting from the deals.

Bower, who directed the Idaho Department of Transportation for nine years, said teaming with a private group might help resolve a looming $3.8 billion shortfall in Nevada’s budget for road construction and maintenance.

Under such partnerships, a private entity typically operates and maintains roads in exchange for keeping toll revenue.

By June, the Nevada task force, which was appointed by Gov. Kenny Guinn, will start preparing recommendations for the legislative session that begins in 2007. Nevada lawmakers do not meet for regular legislative sessions in even-numbered years.

The panel is trying to assess transportation needs and costs and set priorities – and determine whether Nevada residents would support tax increases to generate money for road projects.

Officials with the Nevada Department of Transportation have said there’s enough funding on hand for the current construction cycle, The AP reported. However, from 2008 to 2014, there’s an expected budget shortfall of $3.8 billion for the roadwork.