Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2017

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County tests the waters for elevated expressways in Las Vegas

Touting it as the most readily available option to handle increased traffic flow to and from the resort corridor and the airport, the county and design firms explained the benefits of elevated expressways.

Members from Clark County and engineering consultants CH2M and Louis Berger interacted with residents and business owners located near the proposed elevated expressway area to gauge their thoughts on the project at an open meeting at the Clark County Government Center Thursday.

The elevated expressways would run on Koval Lane and Swenson Street to and from McCarran International Airport, split up in outbound and inbound traffic routes. There are several different options for each route, with the estimated cost of the project being $200 million.

McCarran had 44 million passengers in 2016, which will jump to a projected to 55 million in 2035, according to an outbound expressway project study carried out by C2HM.

That airport traffic to and from the resort corridor puts pressure on the local arterial system, which will only grow as visitor and resident counts increase. About 55 percent of the traffic to and from the airport travels by way of the existing Paradise Road/Swenson Street routes.

As one of the possible projects that came out of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada’s Transportation Investment Business Plan, the county wanted to gauge the early interest of those who live and work in the area.

“It’s one that we could do relatively quickly and we put together some options and this is us going out and seeking the public's input,” said Joe Yatson, manager of design engineering for Clark County. “We invited about 3,500 residents and business owners from the surrounding areas.”

Besides the initial dialogue initiated Thursday at the open meeting, Yatson has spoken with representatives from MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, McCarran and UNLV, as they’re in the immediate area of the potential project.

“(The feedback) has been good and bad,” Yatson said. “The airport has been supportive of it, but they had some questions on the stuff closer to the airport. UNLV was OK with it. MGM hasn’t really gotten back to us yet, but they see some benefits and some issues with it. Caesars has some projects planned over off Koval Road and they wanted to make sure that their construction timelines weren't going to conflict with what they were doing.”

The casinos aren’t the only ones with concerns, as residents of nearby condos weren’t thrilled about the idea, either.

“I just just put $40,000 in upgrades to my place … we just finished putting a brand-new bathroom in there and I get a letter telling me (about the possible elevated expressway),” said Slavica Bosnjakovic, resident of Monterey Grand Manor condominiums. “My money will be shot. I’m not going to live there. I don’t want to live next to a highway. I won’t be able to sell it, unless it’s pennies on the dollar.

“I won’t be able to rent it out, because who wants to step out of their place and look up at highways in the sky? I can just take all the money and energy we’ve invested and flush it down the toilet.”

Not everyone in attendance was against the project, as some were undecided about elevated expressways and said they were willing to hear the county and those involved out before deciding.

“I'm neutral in this,” said Michael Sharak, Marie Antoinette Condominiums resident. “I’ll hear this out. The technology these days is unbelievable, but they just need to show me the numbers and I’ll see where I sit then.”

One concern expressed by several attendees was the possibility of increased pollution due to increased vehicle traffic. Although there would be more vehicles traveling in the area, the area could actually see less pollution, Yatson said.

“I don’t know if this increases pollution; I think it helps,” Yatson said. “Right now the streets in this area are congested, so this would relieve a lot of the cars idling at traffic signals.”

Although the plan is not completely laid out, the inbound and outbound expressways are likely to be built at separate times.

The projected construction time for each portion is three to five years, but without having the specific routes in place and public and private input, that timeframe is subject to change.

Whether the elevated expressways are built, Yatson said it wouldn’t affect other possible transportation expansion in the city.

“We need a multiple-mode increase for all of us,” he said.

The RTC is in the middle of its own study on the possibility of adding a light rail system to the valley and held an open meeting about that last week.

With the first public meeting out of the way, another meeting, with all Clark County residents invited could soon follow, as the county wants to decide the status of elevated expressways in the valley in the next few months.

“We would like to have something by the end of this year or early next year of whether this is going to be something that’s a go or a no-go,” Yatson said.

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