Las Vegas officials propose $12B light rail to link city, airport

Dive Brief:

  • The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada has presented to the state Senate Transportation Committee its plan for a $12.5 billion light rail system, according to the Associated Press.
  • In addition to a light rail system that would connect the Las Vegas Strip to McCarran International Airport, the RTC also included in its plan potential strategies for self-driving car technology, infrastructure improvements to accommodate the rail and a possible future expansion of public transportation to Reno and other locations in the state. These additions could bring the cost of the RTC's entire proposal to $26 billion.
  • State and federal rules about which agencies qualify for the high-capacity transportation grants necessary to pull off the RTC's strategy could create funding hurdles, but officials hope their plan will get a boost from President Donald Trump's proposal to invest heavily in transportation infrastructure.

Dive Insight:

The RTC has been working on its light rail-centered strategy for years. One issue officials have had to overcome is the stigma attached to a weak Las Vegas monorail system, which filed bankruptcy in 2010. The RTC proposal includes an expansion of that $650 million system, which has struggled with attracting a sufficient ridership.

Despite the potential roadblocks, many state officials have asked why the city, which sees 42 million tourists a year, does not already have a solid airport-to-Strip transportation plan in place. To that end, the RTC has looked to cities with successful metro rails — like Denver, Phoenix, San Diego and Salt Lake City — as models for their own plans.

A mass transit system is even more critical as the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority eyes 2018 for the start of its $1.4 billion convention center expansion. The Authority is currently using a parking lot as an extra outdoor exhibition space but will utilize a hotel-tax increase to build an addition onto the existing facilities.

The overhaul is expected to bring an additional 610,000 visitors to Las Vegas and generate an extra $810 million for the local economy, as well as create almost 22,000 temporary and permanent jobs. This expected boon in tourism perhaps adds extra weight to the RTC argument that Las Vegas needs an expanded mass transit system.

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Filed Under: Infrastructure Legal/Regulation
Top image credit: Wikimedia; Adam Kliczek