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Board approves new method of financing I-15 expansion

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Updated: 8/18/2014 8:20 pm
LAS VEGAS (Nathan O'Neal, KSNV -- A change in the way to pay for major renovations to Interstate 15 between Sahara Avenue and the Spaghetti Bowl will bring results for less money.

Originally, the improvements, named Project Neon by the state, were to be made with private investors fronting the costs. The state would pay them back over time.

But Ruby Malfabon, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, says the economic climate for the state to look at different options.

“We don't have the assurance of the federal government's funding of transportation that we've been receiving” Malfabon says. “The other is that when we sold bonds, we had a great bond rating.”

The Nevada Board of Transportation decided today to adopt a “design build procurement” method of financing and making the major highway improvements. Under that plan, the project will be built in phases. Each portion will be designed, property acquired and construction completed before moving to the next phase.

The change will take the project off schedule by a few months. But Malfabon says it's worth it.

“We think that it's affordable,” he says. “We think that we can make it affordable over the long term and it's a 20-year deal versus a 35-year deal. So the payment is a lot less; the cost is a loss less” than paying business investors to front the improvements.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is committed to the project.

“Originally, in that first version of the design-build, it wasn't going to be completed until 2030,” Sandoval says. “And now we've been able to compress that time, get it done by 2020, get it done cheaper and make sure it’s affordable for the people of Nevada.”

Sandavol says changing the project's funding plan is not a waste of time, but time invested wisely.

“We have to be good stewards of the public's money and I want to make sure of it,” Sandoval says. “And all the other (transportation) board members want to make sure that we're doing this in the cheapest and most efficient way possible, but at the same time building the highest quality project and what we approved today with the design-build I think accomplishes this.”


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