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State freeway assistance program to be reviewed for cost effectiveness

By ThisIsReno

By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

CARSON CITY – The state Department of Transportation will review the costs associated with a free program that helps stranded freeway motorists in the Reno and Las Vegas areas after a report to the board overseeing the agency shows that more than $2.3 million was spent on the service in 2011.

The Nevada Freeway Service Patrol Program has costs of $57 per incident in Northern Nevada, compared to $38 per incident in Southern Nevada. The cost of the service has more than doubled in Northern Nevada since 2008, when it was $27 per incident. At the same time, the number of incidents in Northern Nevada declined from 18,660 in 2008 to 13,882 in 2011.

The number of incidents has declined in Southern Nevada as well, from 51,210 in 2008 to 40,552 in 2011.

There are currently four vehicles patrolling approximately one hundred miles in the Reno/Sparks region and six vehicles patrolling approximately one hundred seventy-eight miles in the Las Vegas region.

Len Savage, a member of the Transportation Board of Directors representing the public, asked for the review to ensure it is providing a good value.

Federal funding pays for the service, but the money could be used for road projects instead.

“And I am just as interested as member Savage,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval, who serves as board chairman. “I mean you can’t deny that it helps, for example, the individuals that use the service, it helps the Nevada Highway Patrol because they’re not having to make those stops as well, but it is a lot of money.”

The service is not provided 24 hours a day. In Las Vegas, for example, it is offered 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays when a high volume of visitors leaves the area.

Freeway Service Patrol vehicles are equipped to deal with a wide variety of roadway incidents including disabled vehicles, accident scenes, lost motorists, sick or injured motorists, pedestrians on roadway, animals on roadways, travel lane or shoulder debris, vehicle fires, fuel leaks, and other incidents.

State Controller Kim Wallin also supported the review, saying the numbers raise a lot of questions.

“Things just really aren’t adding up here,” she said. “And then, the governor commented that up north, I mean the cost increased over 100 percent, more than doubled, and then in Las Vegas it increased 50 percent from 2008 to 2011 and we’re servicing fewer people. Something’s funny with the numbers.”

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