Civil engineers give Nevada infrastructure C-minus

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Civil engineers gave Nevada's infrastructure a C-minus grade in its latest report card, saying maintenance funding isn't keeping pace with the needs of aging school buildings, dams and roads.

The 2014 report card from the Nevada section of the American Society of Civil Engineers is a downgrade from the group's last rating in 2007, when the state received a C grade. The report card is not released annually.

"With Nevada's economy growing again, we've also been presented with new opportunities to diversify our economy, and therefore we must make the investment in infrastructure to match these opportunities," Chuck Joseph, a civil engineer who led the report card committee, said in a statement.

Nevada's school facilities got the lowest grade of any subsection in the report card, with a D. Report authors said the lack of regular maintenance at schools leads to more emergency repairs, which inflate costs four-fold.

Authors predict a continued shortfall in the maintenance budget for the state's largest school district. A 2016 capital improvement budget in Clark County is expected to be $3.9 billion, but needs are estimated to be $6.5 billion, including $4.6 billion to modernize existing school buildings.

Measures to boost funding for construction and repairs have failed to win voter approval. A property tax increase aimed at raising $720 million for the district's capital improvements over six years failed by a 2-to-1 margin on the 2012 ballot.

Likewise, the Washoe County School District has a $511 million shortfall in its capital improvement budget.

Civil engineers also found the state is behind on road maintenance because of stagnating state and federal funding. The number of roads that need to be resurfaced or completely rehabilitated has risen from 28 percent two years ago to 38 percent, according to the report.

The engineers recommend changes to the state gas tax, which funds road projects and has remained unchanged at 17.65 cents per gallon since 1992, according to the report. Inflation has reduced the purchasing power of the gas tax revenue, and more fuel-efficient cars mean consumers are buying less gas and paying less in taxes.

Clark and Washoe counties received approval to link their gas taxes to the price of gas, which allows them to issue hundreds of millions of dollars of new bonds to fund road work. But in Clark County, the so-called fuel tax indexing lasts only three years and will need to be approved by voters in 2016 to stay in place.

Members of the civil engineers' society said they created the report card to give citizens and lawmakers a quick snapshot of the state's infrastructure, and to distill the complex reports that public agencies are already producing about their infrastructure needs.

"Somebody's got to do an assessment," Joseph told The Associated Press. "We do a lot of work on public infrastructure, so we feel it's our duty to the public."

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