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Protecting businesses when bypass opens

State transportation officials told the City Council on Tuesday that the Boulder City bypass could open by late 2017.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Jill Lagan asked the council and the transportation officials what is going to be done to protect the tourism and businesses in the city when that happens?

And where will that help come from?

Lagan asked if the Nevada Transportation Department and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada — who are overseeing the bypass project which could financially hurt this town — could give financial support from the funding to promote the town to visitors before and after the bypass’s completion?

The short answer seemed to be “no.”

She also asked a stakeholders’ group to be formed to work with department and commission and the city “that might give a voice and input” regarding the concerns the opening of the bypass will have on the community?

Transportation officials seemed to be agreeable. Although it will give the business interests a voice, I’m not sure what will come of it. But it is good that Lagan is asking the questions and pushing the agenda forward.

So how did we get here so suddenly when a few months ago funding for the nearly $300 million project seemed unlikely in the near future?

Toward the end of the state legislative session, Assembly Bill 413 was passed that would allow Clark County commissioners to raise fuel-tax for revenue toward road projects based on some type of math I’m too dense to understand.

The important part is, the gas tax would go up 3 cents a year, or 9 cents until 2016. This would enable the Regional Transportation Commission to raise $700 million-$800 million in bonds with $230 million earmarked for the bypass, now called Interstate 11.

If the County Commission approves the fuel-tax increase this September, the I-11 loop to the south of town would likely open in four years.

That is a lot sooner than anyone I know who was interested in this project dreamed.

Sure, it could still fall through if the county commissioners don’t support the measure. But considering there are 183 transportation projects that would be funded in the county if it passes, I don’t see it failing.

This comes as the toll road option, which was heralded as a financing option for the project, died a slow death.

State Sen. Joe Hardy, who got tolling pushed through the 2011 Legislature as a test program, declared the idea dead Tuesday after studies released earlier this year showed the revenue generated would cover less than 25 percent of the construction cost.

Hardy told the Council that tolling “won’t work and therefore we need to move on.”

With the tolling option dead, this brings a new dimension to the Boulder City-tourism-business concern. Some people believed, maybe foolishly, that some drivers wouldn’t want to use the toll road and would come through town, minimizing the loop’s impact. At least that discussion, or wishful thinking, is gone. That clears the way for meaningful discussions on what can be done to preserve the interests of Boulder City.

So that leads the town to wonder the question that Lagan raised; How do we preserve our tourism and business interests, and who is going to pay for that?

She started the discussion last night and maybe it’s not too late.

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