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October 22, 2019

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Light rail system on Maryland Parkway a good bet for fed funding, RTC official says

Light rail rendering 031616

Regional Transportation Commission

A rendering of a proposed light rail system along Maryland Parkway.

A proposed light rail system along Maryland Parkway would be a boon for the economy and a good bet for millions of dollars in federal funding, said Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission, this week on “Nevada Newsmakers.”

“It has a lot of opportunity for economic development,” said Quigley about the proposed 8.7-mile route, which would connect McCarran International Airport to UNLV and downtown. “It is a corridor that is ripe and right for developer interest. We hear from developers all the time: ‘When is it going to happen?’”

Click to enlarge photo

Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, speaks during the National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 at the Bellagio on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017.

“They want to invest,” Quigley said. “They want to build. They want to build stores and employment centers, and we're just waiting.”

Yet the project — which could potentially be finished by 2023 — won’t proceed without federal funding covering half of the cost, Quigley said. Estimates of the project’s cost range from $573 million to $705 million,

“We think we can get the thing done if we can get 50 percent federal funding,” Quigley said. “If we can’t, then we will have to talk about other ways of funding.”

The importance of the project gives Quigley a sense that federal funding will be secured. The route of the light rail project now carries 33,000 vehicles and 9,000 transit riders daily. An estimated 35,000 people work in the corridor.

It is “an insanely competitive route” when it comes to federal funding, Quigley said. “It would just kick butt over routes in Kansas City (Mo.), Tulsa, Okla., or wherever else they are currently building light rail,” she said.

The north-south route would link the airport with the university, the Boulevard Mall and the Sunrise Medical District. The route could also be extended west to the Las Vegas Medical District and the site of the new UNLV School of Medicine, Quigley said.

“In doing so, you have connected so many destinations and so many different employment centers within a close proximity of so many rooftops, that the ridership will be actually really high,” Quigley said. “It (ridership) will also be high by the evaluation standards that the feds use in choosing systems they are going to invest in. It is a great corridor.”

The Nevada Legislature approved three bills during the 2017 session to allow the RTC to pursue long-term, mass-transit solutions to the Maryland Parkway corridor, including light rail and street cars. The legislation also gives the RTC until the end of 2020 to ask Clark County voters for a sales-tax hike to help fund the project.

“It will move people,” Quigley said. "Right now, Maryland Parkway is one of our highest (bus) ridership routes. We have over 9,000 people a day riding that route.”

Quigley said an environmental study will be released soon for public comment.

Ray Hagar is a retired political journalist from the Reno Gazette-Journal and current reporter/columnist for the Nevada Newsmakers podcast and website, Follow Ray on Twitter at @RayHagarNV.