The Washington Post

Nevada governor wants to make new interstate a presidential priority

The proposed Interstate 11 corridor (Connecting Arizona and Nevada – Delivering Opportunities coalition)

Presidential candidates interested in winning delegates from early primary states usually follow certain, state-specific rules: Don’t bash ethanol in Iowa. Remember which Concord was a Revolutionary War site, and which is the New Hampshire capital. Be extremely careful when talking about the Confederate flag in South Carolina.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, whose state will once again host an early presidential contest in 2016, wants to add one more to the list: Support a new interstate between two of the Southwest’s largest cities.

At the National Governors Association meeting this weekend in Washington, Sandoval told Stephens Media he would urge presidential contenders to support funding for Interstate 11, the proposed corridor between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The cities are the two largest adjacent metropolises in America not connected by an interstate. Congress designated I-11 as a top priority in 2012, but they didn’t appropriate the money necessary to build what transportation planners say is a needed alternative to Interstate 5 to the west and Interstate 15 to the east.

“That’s the message I will have coming up in ’16, that those who are interested in Nevada need to be aware of our infrastructure needs, and that’s a big one,” Sandoval told Stephens’ Steve Tetreault.

Building a stretch of road between Phoenix and Las Vegas would seem, on its face, as a pretty parochial issue. But supporters say the interstate would help bolster trade routes between Canada and Mexico and boost the economic prospects of long-starved communities in rural Arizona and Nevada, where unemployment rates are still far higher than state and regional averages. Every dollar spent on building I-11 would return six dollars in economic revenue, according to Rep. Steven Horsford, a freshman Democrat from North Las Vegas who supports the project.

Eventually, the interstate could even connect Las Vegas with Nevada’s other population center, Reno. At the moment, those who drive the 438 miles between the two cities have to travel along U.S. 95, which narrows to two lanes for most of the way. Building an interstate between the two cities could shave an hour off the travel time.

Arizona and Nevada haven’t made official estimates of how much the project could cost, but building the 300 miles of roadways between Phoenix and Las Vegas could cost between $5 billion and $10 billion. The Highway Trust Fund, which has built almost 43,000 miles of interstate since 1956, may not be able to afford that cost; paid for by fuel taxes, the fund is expected to fall short of its obligations by 2015, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

But some of the money could come from the states. The Clark County Commission voted last year to raise local gas taxes by 10 cents per gallon over the next three years to pay for an initial stretch of highway, a 17-mile section bypassing Boulder City.

So, presidential contenders, take note: When you travel to Nevada, make sure your talking points are in order. Nevada voters want to hear two things: That you oppose storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, and that you’d like them to have a brand-new freeway heading south — and eventually north — out of Las Vegas.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debated Thursday night. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Chris Cillizza on the Democratic debate...
On Clinton: She poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast him as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.

On Sanders: If the challenge was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal. But he did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past.
The PBS debate in 3 minutes
We are in vigorous agreement here.
Hillary Clinton, during the PBS Democratic debate, a night in which she and Sanders shared many of the same positions on issues
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.