Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2019

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RTC board adopts major transportation investment plan

Light rail rendering 031616

Regional Transportation Commission

A proposal to build an urban light rail or bus rapid transit system on Maryland Parkway between McCarran International Airport and downtown Las Vegas is moving forward. This image from the Regional Transportation Commission shows a version of the proposal that involves running light rail lines down both sides of the street.

A sweeping, long-term plan to drastically improve transit in the Las Vegas area was adopted today by the board of the Regional Transportation Commission.

By officially embracing the Transportation Investment Business Plan, the commission hasn’t made all of the document’s proposals a reality so much as agreed that its vision is worth pursuing.

The Transportation Investment Business Plan has been circulating publicly since December, and its many recommendations include a light rail system to connect the airport with the Strip and downtown Las Vegas.

Yet light rail, though it has been a widely discussed aspect of the plan, is by no means the only major proposal.

The plan also recommends adding a monorail stop at the Sands Expo and Convention Center and expanding it to Mandalay Bay, as well as building pedestrian bridges on the Strip and completing a host of other road work and transit-related projects.

The cost of the transit plan could reach $12 billion, officials have said, and that doesn’t include the cost of building and maintaining a potential light rail system.

Light rail from the airport to the Strip and downtown could cost from $2.1 billion to $12.5 billion.

Some tension regarding light rail arose today when Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, who chairs the Transportation Commission’s board, responded to recent concerns about another project: the county’s plan for an elevated expressway to move cars more efficiently to and from the Strip.

The expressway is one of the proposals included in the transportation plan, and the county has already started to move forward with the estimated $200 million project. It would involve building two elevated, one-way roads: One over Swenson Street and Paradise Road and another over Koval Lane and Tropicana Avenue.

But it has faced some criticism for essentially not being forward-thinking enough — solving traffic problems with a car-focused project rather than aggressively pursuing mass transit options such as light rail.

Brown pushed back forcefully today on any possible notion that the expressway system would conflict with building light rail in the future.

“I don’t think I’ve heard anybody in the last year say that light rail was a bad idea,” he said. “If we could snap our fingers and throw down a valley-wide light rail system, I don’t think anybody would disagree.”

But the region can’t wait for light rail to be finished to start fixing congestion, Brown said. The expressway project is “addressing a critical need today” and can be done promptly with funding from “resort corridor dollars,” he said.

Meanwhile, plans for a potential light rail system down Maryland Parkway are already moving forward. And the transportation commission recently helped lead a group of local leaders on a trip to Denver to look at that city’s rail system as a model for Las Vegas to consider following.

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