Plans for Las Vegas Airport Light Rail Link Project put forward

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The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) has released the Transportation Investment Business Plan (TIBP) – a community-informed document whose key takeaway is that tourism and resident growth will overwhelm the existing capacity of Las Vegas’ transportation infrastructure and greatly affect the future economic health of southern Nevada, if significant and coordinated action is not taken.

The Plan focused on capacity issues in what’s referred to as the “Core Area” – considered to be the economic engine of the urban Valley and the state of Nevada, encompassing McCarran International Airport, the Resort Corridor, Downtown Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Convention Center, the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus, the Las Vegas Medical District along Charleston Boulevard, and Cashman Center.

 

A record 41.1 million people visited Las Vegas in 2014 and over 300,000 visitors routinely occupy the Strip on weekends. Of these visitors, six in 10 rely on ground transportation – usually personal vehicles – resulting in over 23 million annual visits via roadways, primarily the I-15 and U.S. Highway 95. At the same time, McCarran International Airport has become the second busiest origin and destination (O&D) airport in the nation and is geared to welcome as many as 55 million passengers in the future.

The TIBP recommends regional improvements and investments that will create an efficient, high-quality transportation experience to enhance mobility and connectivity.

The recommendations are separated into distinct categories including high-capacity transit, roadways/surface-streets, freeway and pedestrian improvements, and immediate policy action.

Most notably:

  • Development of a Core Area light rail transit system to provide a seamless, high-capacity transit link between McCarran International Airport, the Resort Corridor and Downtown Las Vegas. According to the Plan light rail would be the best technology to handle future transit demand along this corridor, as it has the flexibility to be implemented below ground, at street-level, on an elevated guideway, or any combination thereof. It can also be expanded to serve other parts of the metropolitan area.
  • Public policy and program changes, including the creation of a Resort Corridor Mobility Association to facilitate collaboration between public and private sector stakeholders to anticipate demand and coordinate transportation resources during busy weekends and major events.
  • Creation of a new multi-modal transportation center at McCarran International Airport, providing travellers with convenient access to a variety of mobility choices, including taxi, rideshare, shuttle, bus, and light rail in one location.
  • Surface street and roadway projects range from improvements to taxi/limousine/ridesharing service access at McCarran International Airport to roadway widening, to elevated express lanes on key corridors.
  • Expansion of the Las Vegas Monorail via the construction of a new station to serve the Sands Expo and Convention Center and an extension south to the Mandalay Bay’s Convention Center, as well as a connection to a future high-speed passenger rail station.

The recommended projects carry an estimated total cost of $7 to $12 billion, adjusted for inflation. While the cost of light rail design and preliminary development is part of the overall project cost estimate, construction, operation and maintenance costs are not included. Light rail has attributes that are distinct from other transportation projects and will seek public-private partnerships with investors as a means of shifting the economic burden from taxpayers.

The projects are expected to generate $56 – $178 billion in cumulative economic impact and to create as many as 122,000 jobs. Funding for the projects will come from federal, state and local sources along with alternative forms of financing.