After years of extraordinary growth in Nevada, our transportation infrastructure is stretched to the limit. Although the economic downturn has reduced revenues for our roads, airports, and rail lines, this slower period of growth also presents us with an opportunity to make lasting improvements to plan for the future while creating good jobs. This planning is particularly important since millions of visitors travel to Nevada each year.
For states like Nevada, which depend on tourism, the FAA bill is vital to our economy. More than 45 million people visit Las Vegas and Reno every year, and tourism is one of the most important industries for the Nevada economy. In fact, the economic impact of Nevada’s five airports is approximately $40 billion, which sustains 313,000 jobs and an annual payroll of $11.8 billion. The FAA Reauthorization will also protect passengers heading to the Silver State by improving air travel safety, reducing flight delays that cost passengers an estimated $16 billion a year. In 2011, one in five commercial flights was delayed. By allowing airlines to fly point-to-point with GPS navigation, we will reduce travel time, save fuel, and reduce delays for travelers.
Surface Transportation – Maintaining Our Quality of Life
For Nevada, the surface transportation bill will have a direct impact by creating or saving more than 12,800 jobs. In addition, I included a provision in this legislation to designate portions of US-93 as Interstate 11 to connect Las Vegas and Phoenix. By making the route eligible for federal highway funds, Interstate 11will help create badly needed construction jobs, increase commerce, and significantly boost tourism. I also worked to increase Nevada’s share of federal dollars under the federal highway funding formula. As a result, Nevada will receive over $3 million in additional roadway funding and over $7.5 million in additional transit funding by fiscal year 2014. These are two important areas that will strengthen Nevada’s infrastructure into the future.
I am also working to reduce congestion on our roads because I recognize that every minute spent in congested traffic is a wasted opportunity for Nevada’s families and businesses. According to the most recent statistics, 49 percent of Nevada’s roads and highways are congested. Another study shows that Nevadans lose between 14 and 42 cents every minute that they are stuck in traffic. That is why I am working with state and local officials to provide funding to reduce congestion on Nevada’s roads and highways. Below are a few examples:
Improving Safety on Nevada’s Roads
Making Air Travel Safer and More Convenient
With more than 40 million passengers annually, McCarran International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the United States. In addition, Reno-Tahoe International Airport in northern Nevada has seen its cargo business expand by over 10 percent over the past year—one of the fastest growth rates in the country. These are all welcome signs that our tourism industry is picking up. That is why I am continuing to work to make the investments necessary to keep Nevada’s air transportation system safe and efficient. These efforts include:
Realizing the growing needs of the McCarran International Airport, I was pleased to support the construction of the new Terminal 3. This state-of-the-art facility was one of the largest public works projects in recent Nevada history, and construction was almost stopped completely in the economic recession. That is why, in 2010, I placed language in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to make sure McCarran Airport and other airports could continue to sell bonds to construct new facilities. This project was a significant job creator in Southern Nevada at a time when construction work was scarce in our state and I am proud to have saved nearly 2,000 jobs. With the new opening of Terminal 3, Nevada’s largest airport will be able to accommodate an even greater number of travelers.
That is why I am pleased to support XpressWest, a privately-funded high speed train that will allow passengers to travel from Las Vegas to Victorville in as little as 84 minutes. While the first phase of the project ends in Victorville, XpressWest will eventually connect to the California High-Speed Rail system in Palmdale, which will join the coordinated statewide transportation network that was recently approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. This statewide network will serve major cities in California, including San Francisco, Los Angles, Anaheim, and San Diego. Once completed, Southern Nevada and California will have a fully integrated rail network which will allow travelers to quickly access major destinations throughout the West. This job creating measure will help meet Nevada’s 21st Century transportation needs.
I also recognize the need for efficient bus and light rail systems throughout Nevada to offer an affordable alternative to driving. By improving public transportation, we can help strengthen communities throughout Nevada. Working closely with the Regional Transportation Commissions (RTCs) in Northern and Southern Nevada, I have helped fund improvements to transit centers and bus equipment:
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