Las Vegas Marathon scrambles traffic on, near Strip

For motorists, the annual Las Vegas marathon always means road closures and traffic headaches.

Today's edition of the race -- 44,000 runners under the lights of the Strip for the first time paired with the crowds leaving the National Finals Rodeo -- presents a logistical challenge for organizers.

Typically it is the locals who either drive near the Strip or work at hotels on the resort corridor who are inconvenienced by the annual Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon because they were somehow blindsided by the closures.

While moving the race to night is an attraction that lured a huge number of athletes -- the race is sold out -- it also has the potential of frustrating more than just local residents. That is something organizers realized early on.

Lee Haney, spokeswoman for the marathon, said coordinators of each event worked together along with Strip properties to determine how to move tourists around today.

"Of course, the closure of the boulevard will create some delays and inconveniences surrounding the event on Sunday afternoon and evening, but we have worked diligently to minimize the impacts and believe this event is well on its way to becoming the world's largest long-distance running event," Haney said.

"We are optimistic that the economic impact associated with bringing over 100,000 visitors to town for the weekend will be viewed by the community as well worth it."

The Strip will be closed today between 3 p.m. and possibly as late as 11 p.m., depending on the pace of the runners and the cleanup crews. Motorists will also be prohibited from crossing Las Vegas Boulevard or exiting from Interstate 15 onto eastbound Charleston Boulevard, Sahara and Tropicana avenues, and Flamingo Road.

The freeway's on-ramps and off-ramps will remain open, unlike New Year's Eve, the only other event that shuts down the Strip for an extended period.

When the marathon starting gun was fired off early in the morning, these road closures had little effect on visitors staying at Strip hotels.

And on New Year's Eve -- aside from employees who work on the resort corridor -- most who make the trip to the Strip are settled in for the duration of the closure. That won't necessarily be the case today.

The National Finals Rodeo is expected to end around 3 p.m. today, meaning spectators staying the night will be returning to their rooms. Marathon organizers have worked closely with National Finals Rodeo representatives, who agreed to begin today's event earlier to accommodate the marathon.

Designated shuttles and lanes will be open on Las Vegas Boulevard to take rodeo-goers to the Thomas & Mack Center and return them to their hotels.

Hotel operators have also given employees and guests fliers with directions on how to access Strip properties.

The Regional Transportation Commission also had to rework its Strip bus routes, which typically carry 43,000 passengers along the resort corridor each day. Angela Torres, spokeswoman for the transit agency, said the buses will instead use Koval Lane and Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra drives.

"The challenge is taking passengers back to the Strip during those hours," Torres said of the closure. "The detour schedule is the biggest thing we're trying to communicate to Las Vegas visitors."

What it mostly means is that visitors wishing to take the bus downtown or elsewhere will have a longer walk to the nearest bus stop. Torres said additional vehicles will be on hand to handle additional passengers if the ridership exceeds their prediction.

The Westcliff Airport Express, which transports passengers from the Suncoast hotel-casino and the Westcliff Transit Center to McCarran International Airport, will be minimally affected. There will be no stop at Tropicana Avenue at Las Vegas Boulevard.

The marathon route extends west of the Strip, forcing bus routes along portions of arterials such as Valley View Boulevard, Russell Road and Hacienda Avenue to be detoured as well.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at or 702-387-2904.