Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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Getting to Phoenix the old fashioned way

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Leila Navidi

The road between Phoenix and Las Vegas, U.S. 93, was a very strange experience. Since Las Vegas is only five hours from Phoenix, I had expected I-15 California-type traffic, but that was not happening. The road was quiet and rarely did we pass another car going the same way. This part, near mile-marker 98 south of Kingman, Ariz., was nicely paved, but paved for whom? - Leila Navidi.

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When we left Las Vegas on Tuesday, I couldn't help but notice the thick layer of haze/smog/dust that hung above the valley in a menacing way. We're headed to Phoenix. My thought is, I wonder if they have the same problem? Another city with big growth and big traffic. - Leila Navidi.

(The Sun has gone on the road to listen to voters and talk to political leaders around the West. Reporters will examine the economic, cultural and demographic forces re-shaping the region as they drive to Denver for the first of the two major party conventions the Sun will cover.)

U.S. 93 HEADING SOUTHEAST — As we made our way from Las Vegas and the Mojave into the Sonoran Desert on U.S. 93 toward Phoenix, we noticed the greener, more interesting vegetation and the redder and softer hills, and we cursed the gods -- and feds -- for giving Nevada such a paltry offering.

The other thing we noticed was that it's a terrible transport route, barely fit for our mini-van, and certainly not a real cargo corridor of goods or people. Given how close Las Vegas and Phoenix are (290 miles) it's difficult to understand why the federal government and/or the two states haven't come together to build a rail line or at least a decent interstate.

I interviewed a well-known Phoenix lawyer and urban planning expert, Grady Gammage. He noted that federal policy for decades, centuries really, was focused on settling the West. (Think water and road projects and placing military installations out West to spur settlement and growth. Also, killing Native Americans and shoving them off their lands, OK, you get the idea.)

With the settling business now complete, the feds have moved on.

So maybe it's time for state governments, in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado, to get together and solve some problems. That will be an ongoing theme of our trip: Regional problems, regional solutions.

Winston Churchill famously said, "We contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."

Churchill was a great leader, but here's how an economist might react: Roads and rail lines are a great engine of economic growth, allowing goods, services and people to move efficiently from place to place, thereby spurring on trade.

That's why Gov. Jim Gibbons made money for roads such a high priority during the last legislative session. Roads cost money.

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