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December 17, 2017

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Clark County commits $4.5M a year for monorail extension to Mandalay Bay

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Christopher DeVargas

The Las Vegas Monorail pulls into the Convention Center station on Monday, Nov. 14, 2011.

Las Vegas Monorail Co. officials say they are just weeks away from securing private financing for a planned expansion to Mandalay Bay. Their confidence comes after Clark County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously agreed to set aside $4.5 million of room tax funds annually as a potential backup source of funding.

The public money is not guaranteed to the nonprofit transit company. Monorail officials would have to go before the commissioners to ask for its allocation, and they could be denied at the discretion of the board.

This type of financial resolution is atypical here in Nevada. Lawyers and financial advisers for Monorail Co. said it is more common in other states and will allow them to receive a better debt rating and lower interest rate.

Chairman Steve Sisolak questioned whether Monorail Co. could still finance bonds without the county setting aside any funds. Officials said they couldn’t say for certain but did suggest it could be the difference between being financially solvent and not.

Several commissioners expressed concern about the county making any financial commitments or obligations to the public transit system.

“I get that we gotta have a monorail,” Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said. “I hate the idea that we have to have this discussion of $4.5 million. If something isn’t going to make it over $4.5 million, then it isn’t going to make it. … It’s like my kids saying, ‘I just need a buck.’ You’ve got bigger issues all around.”

Commissioner Larry Brown moved to approve the resolution. He noted the support the expansion project has received from a variety of community stakeholders, including MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance.

“I think the county should be on that list,” he said. “The monorail, whether you like it or not, is here. It’s tangible and this expansion could take us to the next level. It will have tremendous economic impact. … The resolution allows them to be more competitive and protects the public dollars.”

Monorail Co. CEO Curtis Myles gave commissioners an update on the route of the proposed expansion, which would extend the monorail by 1.14 miles after its current end point at the MGM Grand. The currently proposed path would extend the monorail south down Koval Lane, west on Reno Avenue, south on Giles Street, west on Mandalay Bay Road and across Las Vegas Boulevard to a station between the Luxor and Mandalay Bay properties.

Monorail Co. officials are still in talks with The Ribeiro Cos., Atlantic Aviation and others whose properties would be affected by this proposed route. A representative for Ribeiro said he expected a finalized agreement by end of next week.

Construction time for the monorail expansion has been projected at 18 months.

The monorail expansion is expected to complement additional investments made on the South Strip, specifically the growth of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. It is also projected as part of the parking and transportation plans for the new Raiders stadium. Myles said he expects 3,000 to 4,000 monorail rides on game days.