Nevada Dept. of Transportation (NDOT) Director Jeff Fontaine announced on Dec. 11 that he is stepping down in January. The move comes among speculation that incoming Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons (R) would name a new director. Fontaine has accepted a position as executive director of the Nevada Association of Counties, nonprofit group representing the state's 17 counties.
Fontaine served as NDOT director since June 6, 2003, and previously was deputy director from 1995-2003. NDOT has 1,700 employees and a $674-million annual budget. The agency oversees the maintenance and operation of 5,400 miles of state highway and nearly 1,000 bridges.
NDOT is currently facing a projected $3.8-billion funding shortfall from 2006-2015 due to booming tourism and population growth increasing highway use with fewer gas tax dollars for new construction from fuel efficient hybrid vehicles. The agency, in order to stay within budget, recently cut its $130-million a year pavement repair and maintenance program by 50%. The reduction will remain in place until at least 2009. A task force has since recommended raising gas and service taxes as well as license fees to bridge the funding gap.
Fontaine's replacement has yet to be named, although deputy director and chief engineer, Susan Martinovich, a 22-year department employee, is thought to be a front-runner for the top spot.