Nevada bill setting guidelines for toll roads dies

| 6/16/2009

In a result that is likely to cause jubilation for many Nevada road users, an effort that met its demise at the statehouse sought to authorize toll roads.

While doing away with the barrier to toll roads in the state, Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said the intent of the bill was to discourage privatization deals. The legislation – SB206 – required private companies to go through multiple steps before building toll roads.

Despite gaining acceptance in the Nevada Senate, the bill came to a screeching halt in the Assembly Transportation Committee. There, for the second straight session, the bill didn’t emerge for additional consideration.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was pleased that lawmakers chose not to pursue tolls. In addition, the Association was encouraged to see that its grassroots efforts on educating lawmakers about the pitfalls of giving private business too much authority in toll deals are starting to take hold.

OOIDA has been working with lawmakers throughout the country on safeguards that should be included when considering toll projects. The bill in Nevada was a reflection of that effort.

SB206 was shaped to establish a framework for toll road construction. It prohibited existing public highways from being converted into privatized roadways.

However, the bill specified that portions of public highways could be converted into toll roads as long as the public highway consists of at least the same number of lanes that will not have tolls.

Toll roads also would have been subject to supervision by the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Another provision in the bill called for setting up a toll commission. The group, which would include the governor and lieutenant governor, would have been responsible for setting the fees to be charged rather than the private company.

The bill required that toll revenue be earmarked for the state highway fund for use of construction and upkeep on roads in the county where the money is collected.

Mike Joyce, OOIDA’s director of legislative affairs, said the legislation set the bar higher when it comes to the private sector building or taking over highways to convert to toll roads.

The effort to address toll roads can be brought back for consideration during the 2011 regular session. Nevada lawmakers meet in regular session only during odd-numbered years.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Nevada in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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