Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2019

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Sun editorial:

Transportation infrastructure must keep pace with a changing county

The skyline of Las Vegas is changing before our eyes, which is a good thing.

But the fact that our transportation systems aren’t keeping up with those changes should tell us something.

We need to invest in the government machinery necessary to move ahead as quickly and safely as possible on transportation projects.

In the past couple of weeks, it was revealed that the proposed extension of the Las Vegas Monorail was not likely to be completed by the time the Raiders move to their new stadium along Interstate 15 in 2020. With only about 17 months remaining until the Raiders play their first preseason game in Las Vegas, permitting for the extension is still under review by Clark County officials.

That was disappointing news, and not just for football fans wanting a convenient way to get to the stadium.

Although the stadium transportation plan hasn’t been fully developed, and therefore it’s unclear exactly how the monorail extension will fit into it, there’s no question that the extension would ease car traffic on game days and reduce congestion on the city’s streets and highways. That’s what mass transit does.

And this isn’t just about football, either. The monorail extension is a key part of efforts to serve convention visitors — many more of whom will be coming to Las Vegas soon due to projects that will add more than 2 million square feet of convention space up and down the Strip. Projects underway include: the 1.4 million-square-foot expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, the 400,000-square-foot new convention center at Wynn Las Vegas and the 500,000-square-foot Caesars Forum convention center adjacent to the Linq and High Roller observation wheel.

Those and the many existing convention centers in Las Vegas are key assets to our community as we compete with cities worldwide for convention traffic. But as we grow, it’s also critical that we provide a good visitor experience to the millions of people who come here for conventions and expos.

The monorail project, which would extend the rail south of its current southern terminus at the MGM Grand to the recently expanded Mandalay Bay Convention Center, is central to that visitor experience. It would give visitors easy access to resorts and convention spaces as far north as SLS Las Vegas, saving them from the need to rent a car or grab a ride in a taxi or ride-hail vehicle.

Then there’s the obvious benefit for football fans. They’ll still face a walk from the Mandalay Bay stop, but they’ll be able to get to that point from up and down the Strip.

Too bad it looks like it that won’t be an option, at least by the time of the first Raiders game.

That said, the unexpected slowdown does present us with an opportunity. It allows us to recognize the importance of building the government processes and staffing that allows big projects to be approved quickly and efficiently without sacrificing safety and good design.

Let’s be clear: Projects like the extension shouldn’t be rushed. Doing so could literally cost lives.

But with the right processes in place, and with an adequate number of the right people shepherding projects through those processes, Las Vegas can meet the challenges of its growth.

Speaking of those challenges, here’s a hand to the Regional Transportation Commission for continuing to press forward on mass transit planning for the Maryland Parkway corridor. And here’s hoping that initiative will serve as a springboard to developing a mass transit solution for the Strip, too.

The community needs light rail in both places. We’ve listed the reasons for this numerous times in this space, but the upshot is that light rail will reduce congestion, spur development, enhance the visitor experience by providing tourists with a fast and convenient way around town, and improve the quality of life for local residents.

Let’s focus on getting this done, Las Vegas. Although there’s been some talk of designing systems around autonomous-vehicle technology, light rail and the monorail project are immediate, urgent needs.

The community is burgeoning, not only physically but as a major league city. This isn’t the time to be dreaming up new, fanciful plans that would take decades to implement. We know light rail works, and we know the monorail project would be pragmatic.

We also know that we’re years behind other cities in improving our mass transit systems, including regional metros like Phoenix and Denver that would love to pick off some of our convention and tourism traffic.

So let’s keep moving — not just on infrastructure projects but in building the governmental groundwork that will allow us to adapt nimbly to our changes.