Sunday, July 20, 2008 | 2 a.m.
The Brookings Institution’s study examining problems faced by the West’s emerging “mega-metropolitan areas,” such as the Las Vegas Valley, zeros in on several key areas on which the think tank highlights problems and makes recommendations, including:
In Today's Sun: Brookings Report
• The U.S. 93/Interstate-15 intersection (Spaghetti Bowl) in downtown Las Vegas is “the second-worst congestion choke point in the country for freight traffic, causing nearly 300,000 hours of delay for freight each year each year, valued at $2.3 billion.”
• Two-lane U.S. 93 between Phoenix and Las Vegas, with the Hoover Dam choke point, should be upgraded with federal support.
• The region needs a long-term federal commitment to high-speed rail between Phoenix and Southern California, Las Vegas to Southern California, and possibly Phoenix to Las Vegas.
• The federal government should become “mode-neutral” by giving mass transit ideas as much chance of obtaining federal funding as highways.
Education and research
• Nevada, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico lag most of the country in terms of economic returns on university research and development.
• To assist entrepreneurs, the federal government could establish “cluster development grants” to fund feasibility studies, planning and start-up activities, as well as for training, research and development, and adopting technologies.
• The region needs federal/state partnerships to create tracking systems for high school graduates through college “to pinpoint any problems ... and monitor performance over time.”
• Updating the Earned Income Tax Credit would help low-income wage earners increase their chances for more education. In Las Vegas, the report says, such policy changes would result in $70 million more from the credit per year.
Energy and water
• Put conditions on federal transportation funding to state and local governments to encourage green building and alternative energy development.
• The federal government could stimulate alternative energy opportunities that abound in the region — geothermal, solar and wind — with a carbon tax on fossil-based energy systems.
• Dedicate a portion of royalty and licensing fees from fossil fuel development to support research and commercialization of alternative energy technologies.
• To ensure a water supply to an additional 11 million residents by 2040 and to deal with climate change, the federal government should “facilitate creative, collaborative regional water agreements.” It should also invest in better data and models to monitor climate, water and energy.
• The federal government should compensate state and local governments for the relatively high impact immigrant populations have had on the cost of public services in these states.
• Federal “seed money” could be used for regionally tailored public-private partnerships to help integrate immigrants through English language and civics courses, welcome centers and referral services.
• Washington should make the research of immigration issues “a core national education goal.” This is particularly important within the five “megapolitan” areas including greater Las Vegas because the relatively high number of foreign-born people in the five areas are significantly less educated than the overall population.
• To improve skills growth among these workers, the feds should modernize the Earned Income Tax Credit and boost lower-income wages.