Raising $3 billion for Nevada’s Transportation Future: Change Agent Tina Quigley

Community outreach was key to the “yes” vote that extends Fuel Revenue Indexing for ten years.

Clark County will add

600,000 permanent residents by 2025 and host over 53 million (an increase of 25%) visitors in Las Vegas.

Although she runs an organization that oversees public transportation, traffic management, roadway design and construction funding, transportation planning and regional planning efforts for all of Southern Nevada, you won’t often find Tina Quigley in her office.

The manager of the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada, Quigley is more likely attending a local Kiwanis Club meeting. Or doing an interview on a morning radio show. Or meeting with state legislators. Or lunching with local business leaders. Or any number of other activities that help her connect with as many of Southern Nevada’s 2.1 million residents as possible.

“I could come up with the best plans in the world for our transportation system,” said Quigley. “But my team and I realized that the only way we were going to get things done was to have a community that has contributed to, bought in, and supports our plans.”

For Southern Nevada, those plans involve ensuring that its transportation system meets the needs of one of the fastest-growing communities in the U.S. Projections for Clark County estimate that Clark County will add 600,000 permanent residents by 2025 and host over 53 million (an increase of 25%) visitors in Las Vegas.

Planning is one thing, paying for projects to be executed is another. A list developed by the RTC in 2016 of 180 medium- to high-priority transportation projects shows total funding needs of $1.8B, with another 18 DOT projects at $1.0B. No surprise that figuring out how to pay for it all is the toughest part of Quigley’s job, especially given that it would likely involve some kind of tax proposal.

And that’s where all that time spent out of the office has really paid off.

 

Extension of Fuel Revenue Indexing

Fuel revenue indexing (FRI), which ties the gas tax to inflation, had been implemented in 2013, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to fund critical transportation infrastructure projects. In November 2016, Clark County residents approved a ballot measure that would extend the FRI for another ten years, adding $3B to funding and thousands of jobs. The impact is an annual increase of about 3.6 cents per gallon, or an estimated 25 cents per day per citizen.

“The only way we got this done was by creating a community of people that became champions of this effort. You need to constantly be in touch with the community, educating and sharing information with them and showing them how infrastructure improves impact them in a positive way, and finding ways for them to become a part of the process,” explained Quigley.

“It’s hard and it takes a lot of work to get people excited about transportation, but when you do that, the community will support you.”

It’s a process, she said, that starts with talking with leaders in the community, explaining the situation, and taking a temperature of the room to gauge the current level of support and what will be needed to gain that support. “When you have a close relationship and the support of your stakeholders, your business leaders, and your elected officials, what seems impossible is suddenly viable.”  

While it may seem like Quigley’s energy is inexhaustible, she credits her team at the RTC of Southern Nevada and the tremendous job they’ve done connecting with the community and generating interest in transportation through the commission’s website, special promotions, live events, and social media.

For example, in September the RTC took to the streets in the specially kitted-out “On Board” bus, which will travel through the Southern Nevada Valley over the next year, presenting the comprehensive future transit plan for South Nevada, which includes new, high-capacity services and emerging technologies. Not to miss a chance for feedback, the RTC will be asking residents to provide input through a short survey, which will help to influence the final plan.

Similarly, as part of National Infrastructure last May, the RTC partnered with Dunkin’ Donuts to provide free doughnuts and discounted Coolatta’s for its “Seeing Orange” public awareness campaign.

The list goes on and on.

When asked about what is the most fulfilling part of her job, Quigley said: “There are times in your career when you are surrounded by like-minded people and you’re all rowing in unison, and you’re making things happen. It’s really a unicorn moment, especially when you have time to stop and realize you are thinking, ‘OMG, this is so much fun!’”

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