Gephardt advice includes toll roads in Nevada

| Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tolls would be the "least onerous alternative" to raising fuel taxes in Nevada to build roads, according to former presidential candidate Dick Gephardt.

And if you're wondering what the former House majority leader is doing in Nevada, he's now working for the private sector.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. has retained Gephardt as counsel to speak to state officials about using private dollars to build roads. Goldman Sachs is the firm that pocketed $20 million for brokering the $3.85-billion Indiana Toll Road lease in 2006.

Dwindling or raided road budgets, along with the lure of billions of dollars in private investment, has gotten federal and state officials talking about leasing infrastructure, including toll roads, in more than two dozen states.

Gephardt, from St. Louis, MO, is not necessarily saying that Nevada should make the same choices as Indiana lawmakers.

"This should not be a panacea for all your problems," he told state lawmakers, quoted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Gephardt did say Nevada could benefit from truck tolls on Interstate 80 in the northern part of the state and tolls for four wheelers on freeways in Las Vegas. He also suggested the state could add privately financed lanes to Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.

A state-commissioned task force concluded in December that Nevada's estimated highway budgets would fall $3.8 billion short for projects proposed for construction between 2008 and 2015.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has vowed to veto any attempts by lawmakers to raise fuel taxes, which leaves tolling a viable option in his eyes.

However, Nevada General Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, has spoken publicly against the possibility of raising tolls.

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