Carl and Hilary Evans of London made the trek to the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign Friday afternoon.
Walking south along Las Vegas Boulevard, the married British couple on vacation crossed the highway to reach the sign. With no pedestrian access nearby, they said a crosswalk would make it easier to get to the sign, where visitors to Las Vegas frequently come to take photos.
If they come back to Las Vegas next year, snapping photos in front of the sign might be easier.
Clark County officials, at the County Commission’s direction, are moving forward with an $800,000 project to upgrade the area around the sign, improving safety and access.
The landmark sign designed by Betty Willis has stood on the Strip’s south end since 1959.
The project will add about 20 parking spaces to the lot adjoining the median and put in button-controlled crosswalks and traffic lights to make pedestrian access easier.
Concrete pedestrian containment walls are also in the project, adding another layer of protection.
“People come from all over the world and want their picture taken over by the sign,” commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said. “It’s oftentimes impossible to get a parking space, there’s so many people out to visit.”
The crosswalk is needed to keep people from trying to cross the highway in traffic on one of the busiest roadways in Nevada, county officials said.
“We want to be proactive and make it safer,” Sisolak said.
Commissioner Mary Beth Scow said the expanded parking lot and crosswalks will enhance safety and traffic flow.
“Right now it’s really crowded,” she said. “You can see people waiting for spaces. It will be a really good change.”
Mark Rumpler, an Elvis tribute artist, poses with tourists for pictures at the sign. He said he frequently sees vehicles backed up onto Las Vegas Boulevard while waiting for a parking space.
“People always complain about that,” he said, adding that it doesn’t discourage visitors from stopping at the sign.
The sign was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
The three-month project, which was approved Tuesday, is scheduled to start later this year and be finished by January 2014.
It is to be paid for with room tax revenue designated for pedestrian and vehicular improvements along the resort corridor.
Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal. com or 702-455-4519.