TESTIMONY OF MAYOR OSCAR GOODMAN
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am Oscar Goodman, Mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is a pleasure to come before you today to testify on the infrastructure and transportation needs of Southern Nevada and the City of Las Vegas.
Over the last decade, the City and the metropolitan area of Southern Nevada grew the fastest of all the cities our size. Yet, we are simultaneously ranked as the 14th densest major metropolitan area in the country. In Southern Nevada, we are doing a good job at balancing growth and economic strength and vitality with sound infrastructure and community development. In the next two decades, I expect we will continue to grow at a phenomenal pace and we will successfully meet the new challenges of growth head on.
We need only to look back at the last decade to see how ingenuity, hard work and strong partnerships can work to make our future in Las Vegas bright. We just recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). The SNWA is a regional leader, and I assert a national leader, in water quality, conservation and resource planning. Ten years ago water resources and quality was the most pressing issue for our valley. Today, providing safe and reliable water resources is still a significant on-going public concern, yet we have made significant progress in banking water resources, constructing a sound water delivery system, and achieving higher levels of conservation. This success is in part due to significant community leadership, intergovernmental coordination at the local level, and support from neighboring states and the federal government.
It is this kind of partnership between local communities and the federal government that I would like to focus my comments on today. I truly believe many of our accomplishments and future accomplishments in Southern Nevada hinge on a successful partnership between our local communities and the federal government. Similarly, the National League of Cities is pursuing its “Investing in Communities” agenda. Cities around the country struggle to build and maintain infrastructure and to find the resources to perform this public service adequately. So, Southern Nevada is not alone in the infrastructure race.
I mentioned our major issue of the last decade was water – for the next decade and possibly longer, the issue for Southern Nevada is air quality. Air quality will change the way we approach the issue of transportation in Southern Nevada. We have focused significant federal, state and local dollars to improve roadways, and we certainly need to. In comparison to other metropolitan areas, we do not have sufficient roadways. In fact our freeway density is half that of Los Angeles and Orange County. Just recently, we identified approximately $7.6 billion in roadway and transit needs for our valley in the next 20 years. However, we will need to shift toward alternative modes of transportation to best preserve our air quality. There is no way we can build enough roadways to accommodate our population. Therefore, we are pursuing monorail lines, trails systems, bus only lanes on major roadways, and a high-speed train to Southern California.
The monorail alone is a significant investment. The project’s total investment will be approximately $575 million dollars for a five-mile system connecting the Las Vegas strip to downtown. The unique nature of this project is that a majority of the funding comes from the private sector.
Transportation is not the only infrastructure area in need of great attention. We still face significant investments in our water and wastewater systems. The public is becoming more and more acutely aware of the condition of our water and sewer lines. This infrastructure is often taken for granted, “out of sight, out of mind.” Many of the water and sewer systems around the country were built in the early 1900s. As a result, over the next 10 to 20 years many of these investments will be reaching the limit of their capacity and working condition. In addition to replacement of these older systems, Las Vegas will continue to invest in extending our current system to accommodate new growth. Within the next 20 years, the Las Vegas valley will face a treatment capacity deficit of approximately 144 million gallons of wastewater per day. The cost to fill that gap is estimated at approximately $1.2 billion dollars.
Obviously, these are not little ticket items. They are significant investments. Congress invested significant federal dollars in measures such as TEA-21, Air –21 and hopefully will invest in a water and wastewater infrastructure bill this session or in a future Congress. I cannot stress enough how having those federal dollars available to supplement local investments can make or break many significant public projects. Whether it’s the innovative public-private monorail system in Las Vegas, or the I-15 widening project between Barstow and Las Vegas, those federal dollars are key to the success of such projects.
In addition to being Mayor, I serve or have served on numerous regional governing boards that manage many of the regional projects I mentioned here today. I feel I am in a unique position to share with the committee a well-rounded perspective on the needs of Southern Nevada. I encourage you, if at all possible, to keep the level of investment of federal dollars in state and local projects from dwindling. As a country, we can be most successful working together and leveraging the public tax dollar to the benefit of all its citizens through these kinds of public investments. All of us want clean air to breathe, safe water to drink and efficient transportations systems. We have and can continue to address these significant public issues with a strong partnership between the federal and local governments if we all keep those goals in mind.