Updated July 1, 2021 - 5:59 pm
WASHINGTON — A $715 billion transportation and water projects bill passed by the House on Thursday includes more than $51 million for Nevada projects, including funding for interstates, potential grant money for high-speed rail and Amtrak.
The bill passed 221-201, with only two Republicans joining a majority of Democrats. Eight lawmakers did not vote. Nevada’s congressional delegation voted along party lines for the bill, known as the INVEST in America Act.
The massive piece of legislation — which includes a must-pass $547 billion transportation reauthorization and an additional $168 billion for water projects — was written by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and included projects sought by lawmakers for their individual congressional districts.
It also has provisions, such as one co-sponsored by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., that would ban the transportation of horses across state lines to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.
Animal rights groups, breeders and horse racing organizations backed the amendment to the bill following media reports that some wild horses adopted under a Department of Interior program wound up at slaughterhouses in neighboring countries.
Money for Nevada
Meanwhile, congressional Democratic leaders such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the bill a “jobs creating package” that would reinvest in American infrastructure.
It also allowed earmarked projects that passed scrutiny to be included in the legislation.
Titus, a senior member of the committee, secured $20 million for Southern Nevada projects, including $7 million for the Charleston Boulevard underpass project in Las Vegas, $5 million for improvements on Interstate 15 near Blue Diamond Road, $5 million for Maryland Parkway bus rapid transit and $3 million for the Rancho Drive Complete Streets Improvement Project.
Also included in the legislation is a provision that would allow private companies partnered with public entities to apply for and receive grant money for high-speed or other passenger rail projects. Titus said the language could give a boost to the Brightline West high-speed rail proposal to run from Las Vegas to Victorville, California, as well as for Amtrak plans to restore service from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
Titus also tucked language into the bill that would give priority for funding grants to highway projects such as Interstate 11 that connect metropolitan areas with populations of more than 500,000 people and that cross state lines. The I-11 project would connect Phoenix and Las Vegas, and eventually points north and south to Nogales on the Mexican border.
“The provisions I secured in the INVEST in America Act will help build out I-11, support the development of high-speed rail between Las Vegas to Southern California, and reduce traffic on I-15,” Titus said in a statement.
For North Las Vegas, Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., secured $12 million to retrofit street lighting. He also was successful in getting $1.5 million for the Charleston Park Avenue project in Nye County.
Water projects included
In addition to the transportation spending, the legislation includes an additional $168 billion for drinking water and wastewater projects.
An amendment to the bill by Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., would require that any wastewater projects funded with Clean Water State Revolving Funds or through Clean Water Act grant programs undergo a climate assessment to ensure they can withstand severe heat and drought.
“More than 80 percent of the West is under some degree of drought, and in my district, Lake Mead sits at the lowest level on record,” Lee said.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Mark Amodei tucked $18 million in projects in the bill for Northern Nevada projects.
Those projects were $6 million for the Arlington Avenue bridge and $5.24 million for hydrogen fuel cells for buses in Washoe County, $5 million for the Coleman Road expansion in Churchill County, $2 million to complete William Street work in Carson City and $1.76 million for the State Route 28 Central Corridor.
Amodei and Lee are members of the House Appropriations Committee, and Horsford is on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Those committees will write accompanying legislation to fund the projects in the authorization bill.
The House and Senate will meld legislation into a final draft authorizing the projects, and a companion spending bill for a five-year period that begins Oct. 1, when current transportation authorization for projects expires.