Douglas road plan could resurrect nickel gas tax

A controversial nickel-per-gallon gas tax may get resurrected under a plan being developed by Douglas commissioners and business leaders.

The county commission agreed last week to back a proposal by the Business Council of Douglas County to form a public-private group addressing transit issues.

"It's going to take a multi-pronged approach," said Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen. "It's going to be a difficult road, but today's a good day to begin."

County officials have warned they lack enough money to maintain or improve existing roads, let alone build new ones. Voters knocked a 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax that could have paid for roads off the books in 1994, and county leaders scuttled plans to ask for its reinstatement earlier this year, citing lack of support.

But Business Council Director Suzanne Rosevold said participants at a recent forum on roads agreed the tax is inevitable because, if Douglas voters won't tax themselves, state and federal road-building funds will be hard to come by.

Commissioner Steve Weissinger said gas tax discussions will have to include service station owners. He agreed with Rosevold that a unified approach by public and private groups is prudent. Rosevold said Clark and Washoe counties used a similar approach to address their transportation plans.

"It's not something that's going to go away," said Weissinger. "Ten years from now, we will be just like Carson City."

"This is not a hot issue today, but it's a lot easier to address sooner than when it's a crisis," said Etchegoyhen.

Jerry Bing, the Business Council's vice president, said an alternate route to Highway 395 should be a priority. She also said calling it an alternate instead of a bypass could help rally business support - as would a dedicated funding source like the 5-cent gas tax.

"If you say this is what we're going to do, I truly believe you'll get public support," she said.

The commissioners asked for another discussion on the coalition idea in June. The Business Council representatives said they think the group, once established, could accomplish its work in a year.


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