LV hopes to capitalize on federal stimulus package


Las Vegas city leaders have always insisted that big-ticket projects downtown, such as a new city hall, will pay for themselves by attracting more development, new residents, businesses and tourists.

But if federal stimulus package money can chip in, they'll take that too.

State and local governments across the country are readying lists of public works projects that could be funded under a $1 trillion stimulus package being prepared by President-elect Barack Obama's team.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said he would like to talk with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., about including three downtown projects on the city's list: the Mob Museum, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the proposed city hall.

"If we could get some help along those lines, that would be what the stimulus bill was really talking about," he said.

Goodman stressed that there was "nothing formal" yet. In fact, all he had was a crumpled blue Post-It note listing those projects.

"I haven't submitted any requests," he said. "It was just saying to his staff, 'These are three things I want to discuss with him.' "

Local entities always have lists of projects seeking state and federal funding. But Obama's huge stimulus measure, which observers have compared to steps taken to drag the economy out of the Great Depression, has been touted as a way to create jobs while accomplishing much-needed rehabilitation of the country's infrastructure.

"We certainly are looking at taking advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself," said Dan Kulin, a spokesman for Clark County. That could include, for example, federal money contributing to a $100 million-plus McCarran International Airport interchange at the Las Vegas Beltway.

"That might be a good example of something that would fall under the rules," Kulin said. "Everything is still being fine-tuned. It's probably too early to get into too many specifics."

The Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission has already scheduled $3.3 billion worth of work over the next four years, including upgrades to the Beltway and widening stretches of U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 15.

But the commission also has a 20-year plan with $13.3 billion in projects, mostly street and highway work as well as $1 billion in public transit and park-and-ride systems, that could be pushed up.

Las Vegas and Henderson already have submitted project lists to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which for months has been advocating large-scale investment in cities as a way to create jobs.

The conference so far has identified more than 11,000 projects in 427 cities that are "ready to go," carrying a price tag of $73 billion and the potential to create 847,600 jobs.

Las Vegas' list has a lot of road work on it, but two of the biggest items seek funding for solar power: more than $50 million combined for seven megawatts of solar power in the city. There's also $25 million for rapid transit buses and $16.2 million for an overpass at Grand Teton Drive and U.S. 95.

Henderson seeks almost $259 million. Las Vegas seeks $151.4 million, although that wish list doesn't yet include the downtown projects.

About $100 million of Henderson's wish list would build transit lanes for buses on Boulder Highway. There are also two $20 million requests, one for a solar power array and the other a 60-acre park and sports field complex.

North Las Vegas has $590 million worth of requests ready, including $257 million for a water reclamation facility and $135.9 million for a new city hall campus.

At a recent meeting, Las Vegas Councilman Larry Brown received assurances that all local governmental entities will present a united front on funding requests so that Southern Nevada doesn't compete with itself.

"This seems to be an opportunity, especially with our delegation and the influence they have back in D.C.," Brown said. "I think we can benefit, as long as we are speaking with one voice."

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

 

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