Nevada Has Benefitted From Recent Projects To Improve The State’s Surface Transportation System, But Significant Deficiencies Remain; Boost In Transportation Funding Needed To Support State’s Economic Recovery, Provide Congestion Relief And Improve Traffic Safety
Nevada’s urban roads and highways experience significant congestion, which is likely to worsen as the state’s economy recovers. An increased investment in transportation improvements could relieve traffic congestion and support long-term economic growth in Nevada. In the past decade, the state has used a combination of federal and state funding to improve its surface transportation network, but many sorely needed transportation projects still remain unfunded, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.
The report, “Future Mobility in Nevada: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that 59 percent of the state’s major urban roadways are considered congested during peak travel times and that congestion levels in the Las Vegas and Reno areas are expected to increase significantly in the future, unless significant improvements in the region’s transportation systems are completed. The report also found that the state’s traffic fatality rate is higher than the national average, 12 percent of the state’s bridges are deficient and 13 percent of the state’s major roads are rated in either poor or mediocre condition.
Because of these deficiencies, the average Las Vegas area motorist loses $1,481 each year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs due to poor road conditions, lost time and fuel caused by traffic congestion, and the cost of traffic crashes. Reno area drivers are estimated to lose $972 annually in similar costs. Nevada roadways that lack desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions were found to cost the state’s drivers a total of $1.8 billion each year.
“The TRIP report quantifies the very real costs to drivers when funding for highways doesn’t keep up with the needs,” said State Senator Bill Raggio. “Our highway budget has been going down while demands on the system have been steadily increasing.”
According to the TRIP report, without a significant boost in funding, numerous needed transportation projects will not proceed, including expanding portions of I-580 in Reno to six lanes, widening portions of US-395 in Carson City to six lanes and expanding portions of I-515/US-95 and I-15 in Las Vegas to ten lanes. The TRIP report contains lists of needed roadway repair projects, highway expansion projects and transit improvements in the Las Vegas and Reno areas as well as statewide that can not move forward without additional transportation funding.
Despite the current economic downturn Nevada remains the fastest-growing state in the nation, with its population and level of vehicle travel more than doubling since 1990. The report projects that vehicle travel in Nevada will increase by another 70 percent by 2030, further congesting the state’s highways unless significant improvements are made to the state’s roadways and transit systems.
The federal surface transportation program, which expires on October 31, 2009, remains a critical source of funding for road and bridge repairs and transit improvements in Nevada. According to the report, from 1998 to 2008, Nevada received $2.77 billion in federal funding for road, highway and bridge improvements, and $520 million for public transit, a total of $3.3 billion.
This year’s federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides approximately $201 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and $49 million for public transit improvements in Nevada. This funding, however, serves only as a down payment on needed road, highway, bridge and transit improvements and is not sufficient to allow the state to proceed with numerous projects needed to modernize its surface transportation system.
With the current federal transportation program set to expire, Congress has an opportunity to approve a new federal surface transportation program that could include a significant boost in funding for highway and transit improvements in Nevada.
“Nevada has benefited tremendously from the federal surface transportation program,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. “While the state has put this combination of federal and state funds to good use in the past, in the coming years, many additional needed projects will remain stranded on the drawing board because of insufficient funding. It is critical that the state adequately fund its transportation system and that Congress produces a timely and adequately funded federal surface transportation program this year. Thousands of jobs and the state’s economy are riding on it.”
Nevada’s extensive system of roads, highways, bridges and public transit provides the state’s residents, visitors and businesses with a high level of mobility. As the backbone that supports the Silver State’s economy, Nevada’s surface transportation system provides for travel to work and school, visits to family and friends, and trips to tourist and recreation attractions while simultaneously providing businesses with reliable access for customers, suppliers and employees. As Nevada’s population and economy continue to grow, the state must improve its system of roads, highways, bridges and public transit to ensure the safe, reliable mobility needed to improve the quality of life for all Nevadans.
The state currently faces tremendous economic challenges, with unemployment recently reaching 13.2 percent. Making needed improvements to Nevada’s roads, highways, bridges and transit could provide a significant boost to the state’s economy by creating jobs and stimulating long-term economic growth as a result of enhanced mobility and access. As Nevada looks to rebound from the current economic downturn, the state will need to enhance its surface transportation system by improving the physical condition of its transportation network and enhancing the system’s ability to provide efficient and reliable mobility for residents, visitors and businesses.
The federal government is an essential source of funding for the ongoing modernization of Nevada’s roads, highways, bridges and transit. But recent declines in federal transportation revenues and significant increases in construction costs are making it more difficult for the state to maintain and improve its surface transportation system.
Approved in February 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides approximately $201 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and
$49 million for public transit improvements in Nevada. This funding can serve as a down payment on needed road, highway, bridge and transit improvements, but it is not sufficient to allow the state to proceed with numerous projects needed to modernize its surface transportation system. Meeting Nevada’s need to modernize and maintain its system of roads, highways, bridges and transit will require a significant, long-term boost in transportation funding at the federal, state or local levels.
This year Congress will deliberate over a long-range federal surface transportation program. The current program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), expires on October 31, 2009. The level of funding and the provisions of a future federal surface transportation program will have a significant impact on future highway and bridge conditions and safety as well as the level of transit service in Nevada, which, in turn, will affect the state’s ability to improve its residents’ quality of life and enhance economic development opportunities.
The federal surface transportation program is an essential source of funding for the construction, maintenance and improvement of Nevada’s system of roads, highways, bridges and public transit.
- Federal spending levels for highways and public transit are based on the current federal surface transportation program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which was approved by Congress in 2005. The SAFETEA-LU program expires on October 31, 2009.
- From 1998 to 2008, Nevada has been able to complete numerous highway, bridge and transit projects that have improved safety and enhanced mobility and economic productivity largely due to federal transportation funds. This report contains lists of projects completed with federal funding statewide and in the Las Vegas metro area, including modernized interchanges at the US-395/I-580/I-80 junction in Reno and at I-15 and 95 in Las Vegas. Also completed was the USA Parkway economic development project in Washoe County and bridge replacements in many northern Nevada counties.
- From 1998 to 2008, Nevada received approximately $2.77 billion in federal funding for road, highway and bridge improvements, and $520 million for public transit, a total of approximately $3.28 billion.
- Federal funds provide 23 percent of revenues used annually by the Nevada Department of Transportation to pay for road, highway and bridge construction, repairs and maintenance.
- Federal funds provide 10 percent of the revenue used annually to pay for the operation of and capital improvements to the state’s public transit systems, which includes the purchase and repair of vehicles and the construction of transit facilities.
- Recent declines in federal surface transportation revenues, as well as significant increases in the cost of transportation construction materials, will make it more difficult for Congress to authorize new federal surface transportation legislation that adequately funds needed improvements to the nation’s roads, highways, bridges and public transit systems.
Without a substantial boost in federal highway funding, Nevada will be unable to complete numerous projects to improve the condition and expand the capacity of roads, bridges, highways and public transit, hampering the state’s ability to improve mobility and to enhance economic development opportunities in the state. The state’s residents incur a significant cost as a result of roads and highways being congested, deteriorated and lacking some desirable safety features.
- Needed projects in Nevada that would require a significant boost in federal funding to proceed include the following: expanding portions of I-580 in Reno to six lanes, widening portions of US-395 in Carson City to six lanes and expanding portions of I-515/US-95 and I-15 in Las Vegas to ten lanes. A full list of needed projects that would require a significant level of federal funding to proceed is included in the report.
- TRIP estimates that Nevada’s roadways that lack desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions cost the state’s drivers approximately $1.8 billion annually in the form of traffic crashes, additional vehicle operating costs and congestion-related delays.
- TRIP estimates that roadways that lack some desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions, cost the average Las Vegas area motorist $1,481 annually.
- TRIP estimates that roadways that lack some desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions, cost the average Reno area motorist $972 annually.
- To ensure that federal funding for highways and bridges in Nevada and throughout the nation continues beyond the expiration of SAFETEA-LU, Congress needs to approve a new long-term federal surface transportation program by October 31, 2009.The American
- Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides approximately $201 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and $49 million for public transit improvements in Nevada.
Despite the current economic slump, Nevada leads the nation in the growth of population, vehicle travel and economic output since 1990. Population and economic growth in the Silver State have resulted in increased demands on the state’s major roads and highways.
- Nevada is the fastest growing state in the nation. Its population reached 2.6 million in 2008, an increase of 116 percent since 1990. The state’s population is expected to grow another 65 percent by 2030.
- Vehicle travel in Nevada increased 106 percent from 1990 to 2008, the largest increase in the nation during that time. Vehicle miles of travel (VMT) increased from
10.2 billion in 1990 to 21 billion VMT in 2008.
- By 2030, vehicle travel in Nevada is projected to increase by another 70 percent.
- From 1990 to 2008, Nevada’s gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the state’s economic output, increased by 150 percent, when adjusted for inflation. This is the greatest GDP growth in the nation.
- Despite the current rate of growth in the state, Nevada’s unemployment rate reached 13.2 percent in August 2009, which is nearly double the unemployment rate in August, 2008, which was 7 percent.
Traffic congestion levels are rising as a result of population and economic growth.
- In 2007, Nevada was ranked fourth in the nation in the share of congested urban Interstates and other highways or freeways, with 59 percent of the state’s urban highways carrying a level of traffic that is likely to result in significant delays during peak travel hours.
- The average rush hour trip in the Las Vegas metropolitan area takes approximately 30 percent longer to complete than during non-rush hour. According to a recent report by the Reason Foundation, by 2030, unless additional highway capacity is added, traffic delays in the Las Vegas area will increase 163 percent over current levels, with the average rush hour trip taking 79 percent longer to complete than during non-rush hour. This level of traffic delay is greater than what is currently experienced in Los Angeles.
- Travel delays in the Reno urban areas will more than quadruple by 2030 unless additional capacity is added to those regions’ transportation systems, reaching traffic congestion levels similar to current traffic congestion levels in Las Vegas.
- The statewide cost of traffic congestion in lost time and wasted fuel is approximately $750 million annually and $895 for the average driver in the Las Vegas area and $180 for the average driver in the Reno area.
In 2007, 13 percent of major roads in Nevada were in poor or mediocre condition, providing motorists with a rough ride.
- In 2007, five percent of Nevada’s roads were rated in poor condition and eight percent were rated in mediocre condition. This includes Interstates, highways, connecting urban arterials and key urban streets that are maintained by state, county or municipal governments.
- Roads rated in poor condition may show signs of deterioration, including rutting, cracks and potholes. In some cases, poor roads can be resurfaced, but often are too deteriorated and must be reconstructed. Roads rated in mediocre condition may show signs of significant wear and may also have some visible pavement distress. Resurfacing can repair most pavements in mediocre condition, but some may need more extensive reconstruction to return them to good condition.
- Roads in need of repair cost each Nevada motorist an average of $227 annually in extra vehicle operating costs – $362 million statewide. Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
- In the Las Vegas metropolitan area, where 10 percent of major roads are rated in poor condition and 26 percent of major roads are rated in mediocre condition, driving on roads in need of repair costs motorists $246 each year in extra vehicle operating costs.
- In the Reno metropolitan area, where 40 percent of major roads are rated in poor condition and 17 percent of major roads are rated in mediocre condition, driving on roads in need of repair costs motorists $497 each year in extra vehicle operating costs.
- The functional life of Nevada’s roads is greatly affected by the state’s ability to perform timely maintenance and upgrades to ensure that structures last as long as possible. It is critical that roads are fixed before they require major repairs because reconstructing roads costs approximately four times more than resurfacing them.
- This report contains a list of needed roadway preservation projects in Nevada that would require significant federal funding to be completed, including nearly 100 miles of roadway resurfacing along I-80 plus Las Vegas-area reconstruction projects to preserve heavily congested roadways such as I-15, SR 574, SR-160, and Lake Mead Blvd.
Twelve percent of bridges in Nevada show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards. This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length and are maintained by state, local and federal agencies.
- In 2008, nearly three percent of Nevada’s bridges were structurally deficient. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.
- In 2008, nearly ten percent of Nevada’s bridges were functionally obsolete. Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
- This report contains a list of needed bridge rehabilitation and replacement projects across the state that would require significant federal funding to be completed.
Nevada’s rural traffic fatality rate is significantly greater than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state. Improving safety features on Nevada’s roads and highways would likely result in a decrease in traffic fatalities in the state. Roadway design is an important factor in approximately one-third of all fatal and serious traffic accidents.
- Between 2004 and 2008, 1,950 people were killed in traffic accidents in Nevada, an average of 390 fatalities per year.
- Nevada’s traffic fatality rate was 1.54 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2008, higher than the national average of 1.27 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
- The traffic fatality rate in 2008 on Nevada’s non-Interstate rural roads was 2.85 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, which is more than twice the traffic fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state (1.29).
- Several factors are associated with vehicle accidents that result in fatalities, including driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway design. It is estimated that roadway design is an important factor in one-third of fatal traffic accidents.
- Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and accidents while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion. Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and better road markings and traffic signals.
- The cost of serious traffic crashes in Nevada in 2008, in which roadway design was a contributing factor, was approximately $661 million or $339 per driver in the Las Vegas area or $295 per driver in the Reno area. The costs of serious crashes include lost productivity, lost earnings, medical costs and emergency services.
- The Federal Highway Administration has found that every $100 million spent on needed highway safety improvements will result in 145 fewer traffic fatalities over a 10-year period.
Two congressionally appointed commissions and a national organization representing state transportation departments have recommended a broad overhaul of the Federal Surface Transportation Program to improve mobility, safety and the physical condition of the nation’s surface transportation system by significantly boosting funding, consolidating the program into fewer categories, speeding up project delivery and requiring greater accountability in project selection.
- The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (NSTPRSC) and the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission (NSTIFC) were created by Congress to examine the current condition and future funding needs of the nation’s surface transportation program, develop a plan to insure the nation’s surface transportation system meets America’s future mobility needs, and to recommend future funding mechanisms to pay for the preservation and improvement of the nation’s roads, highways, bridges and public transit systems.
- The NSTPRSC concluded that it is critical to the future quality of life of Americans that the nation create and sustain the preeminent surface transportation system in the world, one that is well maintained, safe and reliable.
- The NSTIFC found that the U.S. faces a $2.3 trillion funding shortfall over the next 25 years in maintaining and making needed improvements to the nation’s surface transportation system.
- The NSTIFC found that the use of motor fuel fees is not sustainable as a primary source of funding for the nation’s surface transportation system because of the shift to a variety of fuel sources and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Key recommendations of the Commissions and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) include:
- Allocate funding through outcome-based, performance-driven programs supported by cost/benefit evaluations rather than political earmarking (NSTPRSC).
- Consolidate the more than 100 current transportation funding programs into 10 programs focused on key areas of national interest, including congestion relief, preservation of roads and bridges, improved freight transportation, improved roadway safety, improved rural access, improved environmental stewardship, and the development of environmentally-friendly energy sources (NSTPRSC).
- Speed up project development processes to reduce the excessive time required to move projects from initiation to completion by better coordinating the development and review process for transportation projects (NSTPRSC).
- Develop a future federal surface transportation program that would be accountable for results, would make investments based on community needs and would deliver projects on time and on budget (AASHTO).
- Provide a federal surface transportation program that is based on state-driven performance measures and is focused on six objectives of national interest: preservation and renewal, interstate commerce, safety, congestion reduction and connectivity for urban and rural areas, system operations, and environmental protection (AASHTO).
- Shift the collection of federal surface transportation revenues from fuel taxes to mileage-based fees, which would charge motorists a fee based on the number of miles driven, with full deployment of a comprehensive system in place by 2020 (NSTIFC).
- Ensure that once implemented, mileage-based fees were indexed to inflation and that they and any other federal transportation charges were set at a rate that would provide enough revenue to provide adequate federal funding to ensure that the nation achieve an integrated national transportation system that is less congested and safer and that promotes increased productivity, stronger national competitiveness, and improved environmental outcomes (NSTIFC).
- Failure to address the immediate funding shortfall and provide adequate long-term funding for surface transportation will lead to unimaginable levels of congestion, reduced safety, costlier goods and services, eroded quality of life and diminished economic competitiveness (NSTIFC).
- In the short term, significantly boost the current federal motor fuel tax and index it to inflation to support increased federal surface transportation investment (NSTIFC).
- Expand the ability to use additional surface transportation funding sources including tolling, state investment banks and public-private partnerships as a supplement to primary sources of funding such as motor fuel fees and eventually a mileage-based fee (NSTIFC).
The efficiency of Nevada’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Businesses are increasingly reliant on an efficient and reliable transportation system to move products and services. Expenditures on highway repairs create a significant number of jobs. Significant increases in the cost of highway construction materials over the last five years have boosted the cost of road, highway and bridge repairs.
- Annually, $41 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Nevada and another $69 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Nevada, mostly by trucks.
- Trucks carry Sixty-eight percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Nevada and another 24 percent are carried by courier services, which use trucks for part of the deliveries. Similarly, 82 percent of the goods shipped to sites in Nevada are carried by trucks and another 10 percent are carried by courier services,
- Commercial trucking in Nevada is projected to increase 42 percent by 2020.
- A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs, including approximately 9,500 in the construction sector, approximately 4,300 jobs in industries supporting the construction sector, and approximately 14,000 other jobs induced in non-construction related sectors of the economy.
- Over the five-year period from August 2004 to August 2009, the average cost of materials used for highway construction – including asphalt, concrete, steel, lumber and diesel – increased by 39 percent.
Sources of information for this report include the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (NSTPRSC), the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission (NSTIFC), the U.S. Census, The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Reason Foundation and the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). All data used in the report is the latest available.