STATELINE, NEV. — Representatives of Douglas County’s “golden geese,” or big community investors, gathered in front of local decision-makers Thursday to praise a long-discussed plan to realign Highway 50 around the back of the Stateline casinos at Tahoe.
The large support from many of the region’s key private investors — including Edgewood Companies, Heavenly Mountain Resort and nearly every Stateline casino — was prominently displayed at the meeting, where county commissioners heard a second update on a countywide connectivity plan.
The plan aims to accomplish many of the transportation projects outlined in the county’s Master Plan, 2011 South Shore Vision and 2013 Valley Vision. The approximately $70 million Highway 50 realignment, also known as the loop road project, is only one of them.
“There are some declines occurring certainly in my industry — no doubt about it — and we’re trying to revitalize it,” John Koster, Harrah’s regional president for Northern Nevada, told the commissioners. “We believe that this loop road project… is going to be a great part of that.”
Helping revitalize the county and making it a more attractive destination for both visitors and locals is largely what the connectivity initiative is about. But improvements won’t come without a cost.
Champions of the plan are exploring utility operator fees, gas taxes and sales taxes as the three revenue sources to get the job done. And with that, they say the cash generated — about $4.4 million per year — would allow the county to obtain even more money through a bond and move forward with proposed road projects.
Ultimately, the local funding boils down to $4.84 per month per resident, said Jacques Etchegoyhen, a co-champion of the connectivity plan and former county commissioner.
“We talked about ‘is it possible to raise $4.4 million locally from generated taxes and fees?’ And the answer is yes, if there is desire to,” Etchegoyhen said at the meeting. “And certainly there are other mechanisms, but for simplicity’s sake we’ve used these three (funding sources) because those are the ones the Nevada legislature empowered to county commissioners.”
But County Commissioner Greg Lynn doesn’t expect the fundraising would be easy.
“When we are asked to implement a gas tax, a utility operator fee and a sales tax increase, I would expect every single one of you folks who spoke here today to come up there and give us a boost on that against the absolute hurricane — let me emphasis this (in) capital, big red letters — hurricane of opposition that we will get in the valley with the implementation of any tax that will mean a nickel (we) can spend at the lake.”
Carson Valley isn’t being left out of any plans, however. The Nevada Department of Transportation is proposing almost $400 million in improvements in the Valley over the next 15 years, and according to The Record-Courier, most of those funds would be used to improve Highway 395 between Carson City and Minden.
While the loop road project was the most discussed proposal under the connectivity plan Thursday, other projects in the initiative include the Ranchos Connectivity path in Gardnerville, the Pony Express Trail project, the Stateline-to-Stateline bikeway and identifying an alternate truck route to remove heavy Highway 50 truck traffic out of Minden and Gardnerville,
No action was taken on the plan Thursday, but it is expected that commissioners will revisit the connectivity initiative soon.
In other business, commissioners also heard a presentation on the Tahoe Basin Recreation and Tourism Plan.
The plan puts a focus on identifying, improving and expanding recreational opportunities on the Tahoe side of Douglas County, including the possibility of further developing the Kahle Community Center and creating “low impact” activities in the basin.
It is expected that commissioners will take action and possibly approve the recreation and tourism plan next month.