Nevada opens door to private toll roads

A bill enabling the state’s first privately-financed toll road, the Boulder City Bypass, has passed the state Senate, where another bill enabling similar projects statewide also is under consideration.

The Nevada Senate has approved a bill that would enable the Nevada Department of Transportation to pursue the state’s first public-private partnership for a toll road, the Boulder City Bypass.

The bill’s passage comes as the Senate’s finance committee is considering broader legislation that would lift Nevada’s ban on toll roads, allowing similar projects to move forward statewide.

This time, everyone recognises we don't have any money

Sen. Joseph Hardy

“One of the challenges with building roads is you don’t have enough money to do it. And if you don’t have enough money to do it then, even though it’s a good idea, you can’t do it,” said Republican Senator Joseph Hardy of Boulder City, who has been championing the legislation since 2005.

“This time, everyone recognises we don’t have any money,” he added, which is why he is hopeful the bill will finally become law.

Hardy said the project, a road connecting Interstate 515 east of Boulder City with the Hoover Dam Bypass in the west, already has met many of the obstacles that often hold back development. Boulder City already owns the land needed for the road, and the Federal government has approved an environmental review for the planned segment.

“All you lack basically is the money to put the pavement on the road,” Hardy said.

Nevada: looking to build
more roads with tolls

Nevada Department of Transportation spokesperson Michelle Booth said the department plans to use Hardy’s bill to advance phase two of the bypass as a 12-mile toll road. The estimated cost would be about $300 million to $500 million, she noted, though a 2.75-mile phase would first have to be completed. That phase is expected to cost $175 million to $200 million and be completed in the next five years, she said.

Meanwhile, the Nevada Department of Transportation is widening a neighbouring route to the north, US 93, to ease traffic backup caused by the opening of the Hoover Dam Bypass last year. “It wasn’t so much that we didn’t foresee this backup coming; we were hoping to build this bypass for a long time. It’s just a question of funds,” Booth said.

The bill enabling the Boulder City Bypass to be developed as a private toll road, SB214, still must pass the Nevada Assembly and get a signature from Republican Governor Brian Sandoval.

The bill enabling the state to pursue privately-financed toll road projects statewide, SB83, has yet to pass either house of the legislature. It has the backing of the Nevada Department of Transportation, which requested the legislation, according to Booth.