Mountain America— Wyoming is certainly not the only state looking for a solution to the funding of highway improvements. Arizona's Gov. Janet Napolitano is considering seeking repeal of the state law that limits the term of highway bonds to 20 years. The ability to float 30-year bonds would enable the Arizona Department of Transportation to borrow more money than it now can.
But Sen. Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu City), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, favors allowing private parties to build new roads and expand existing ones, charging tolls to recoup their costs. And Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, favors scrapping the state gas tax and replacing it with a state sales tax to fund transportation projects.
Tolls are also under consideration in Utah, where UDOT has been weighing congestion pricing on sections of Interstate 15. Now the Utah Taxpayers Association is drafting a bill that would enable highway toll collection based on congestion. A bill passed by the Utah Legislature last year allows the state Transportation Commission to impose tolls on new highways, and the congestion pricing of tolls on existing roads would expand that capability.
Nevada's new governor, Jim Gibbons, is holding firm on his promise of no new taxes or fees, rejecting recommendations of a state committee to double the cost of driver's licenses or tie the gas tax to inflation to help reduce the $3.7-billion shortfall the Nevada Department of Transportation says it has for highway construction.
And with the Nevada budget surplus dwindling (to $236.5 million in December, down $82.4 million from the November estimate), there may be no money there for highways. Outgoing Gov. Kenny Guinn had recommended using $170 million from the surplus for highway construction.
As always, there is no easy solution to the highway funding dilemma.