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August 19, 2014

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Boulder City Bill Speaks Out:

Commitment to bypass seems to be on back burner

Bill Erin

Bill Erin

Strangely enough, only one candidate for City Council, during the primary, spent much time talking about the Boulder City Bypass. It seems to be fading farther and farther from consideration as one of our more important issues.

Completely forgotten, it seems to me, is the fact that this bypass was an integral part of the original proposition to build an alternate route for Highway 93 over the Colorado River, avoiding Hoover Dam. Once the route calling for the bridge to be built just below the dam was selected, a bypass around Boulder City was part of the plan.

The Federal Department of Transportation and the Nevada DOT were as committed to our bypass as to the Hoover Dam bridge. Then there was a sudden decision, because of funding, to build the bridge first and then our bypass. Our bypass never got funded.

Now we are sneered at as those 15,000 small-town folks who want the government to spend $400 million to relieve their traffic problem. The original commitment seems to be entirely forgotten.

Last week, our new congressional representative, Dina Titus, came out with a flyer bragging about a recovery package she backed "ensuring $270 million for infrastructure" in Nevada. She claims it will build highways and bridges and modernize our transportation system. Nowhere is there any mention of the traffic problem the Hoover Dam bridge will cause in Boulder City.

So it looks more and more like the only way we'll ever get a bypass is to interest private enterprise in joining with us. Though only one candidate has addressed this problem, I am sure it is foremost in the minds of Mayor Roger Tobler, City Manager Vicki Mayes and Police Chief Thomas Finn.

Where would we find private financing to join with us in this project? Aside from national and international companies who have put up much more than $400 million for toll roads in other states, it seems logical to look at those Las Vegas entrepreneurs who are investing big bucks in Arizona for what they are labeling "Las Vegas commuter developments."

Not only would they benefit financially, but how much easier will it be to sell those houses over there without a Boulder City rush-hour backup to rival the best that Las Vegas has to offer.

A stumbling block to this scenario in the past has been the state Legislature. Despite the best efforts of our assemblyman, Dr. Joe Hardy, the Legislature has been cool to toll roads of any kind. With the general funding crunch, however, there seems to be more interest in getting infrastructure built whether it entails toll roads or not.

Hardy said that there are now three bills before the Legislature on this subject. One he has submitted, one submitted by the DOT, and a third by Sen. John Lee.

Of the three, Hardy feels optimistic about the progress his ideas are making, pretty much predicated on the 93/95 link, as he describes it. His bill limits the link to user fees that would not require a toll booth or a stop by those using it.

Hardy also feels that while there is little appetite in the Legislature for the I-15 toll ideas, other private/public partnerships would be allowed. Right now that would seem to be our best bet.

It's common sense that not all traffic would pay a toll to avoid Boulder City, but enough would do so to appreciably relieve the traffic here. To those commercial vehicles and commuters to whom time is money, the toll road should be welcome. Sight-seeing tourists going to Hoover Dam would, hopefully, just as soon go through historic Boulder City. We would continue to welcome them.

Bill Erin is a Boulder City News columnist.

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