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Upgrade of Strip pedestrian bridges months behind schedule

More than two decades ago, local leaders took innovative steps to move pedestrian traffic across the Las Vegas Strip at Tropicana Avenue, which at the time was the busiest intersection in town.

Pedestrian bridges accessible by elevators and escalators were built, a concept that was duplicated along the length of Las Vegas’ most popular street.

Today, the people-movers at Tropicana and the Strip are obsolete. They frequently break down. And in just over a year, they’ll be needed to accommodate a crush of pedestrian traffic heading for events at MGM Resorts International’s new 20,000-seat arena.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors on Tuesday received an update from the Nevada Transportation Department about a plan to upgrade the bridges, escalators and elevators and the race to get the project done before the first crowds make their way to the arena.

Right now, it’s a losing battle.

John Terry, the Nevada Transportation Department’s assistant director of engineering, told the authority board the project is at least six months behind schedule and one of the resorts on the four corners, the Tropicana, is unintentionally holding things up by trying to design a new adjoining retail-based entrance around bridge structures.

NDOT first brought the bridge plan to the state transportation and LVCVA boards in 2013. Designs were completed in July 2014 and the affected resorts asked for aesthetic changes with glass-panel wind screens similar to the more recently developed overpasses.

Now, the project that was expected to begin this spring will likely be pushed back to the fall or winter.

The Transportation Department is involved because a 2007 law requires a portion of room taxes collected to market tourism be used to support tourism-enhancing state highway projects. Past projects have included Interstate 15 express lanes and widening I-15 between Tropicana and Silverado Ranch Boulevard.

About $19.6 million in bonding capacity is left for another project and the department and the authority agreed on upgrading the 16 escalators, which have never been replaced and weren’t designed for outdoor use.

Glass wind screens and bridge facade enhancements that would match the look of other Strip pedestrian bridges are planned, as is replacing wire mesh restraints on the Tropicana bridges.

Whiting-Turner Contracting is the construction manager. Clark County would handle maintenance.

Terry said Tropicana representatives indicate they want to incorporate the overpass design into a corridor leading to a retail area similar the way overpasses connect to the Bellagio at the Strip and Flamingo Road.

Tropicana officials did not address the authority board, and calls for comment for this article were not returned.

In other business Tuesday, the board approved an 11-year lease for an office in Chicago.

The authority has maintained an office in Chicago, one of Las Vegas’ biggest convention industry rivals, for 43 years. The new office is 1,000 square-feet bigger, and the lease will cost about $1.4 million over the life of the contract. The board also approved $176,500 for office improvements and moving expenses.

The board’s five-member audit committee also received an internal audit that criticized spending by Las Vegas Events, the authority’s contracted private, non-profit corporation that manages special events on the board’s behalf.

The audit report said Las Vegas Events overspent its $1.6 million budget by $80,703 and failed to purchase mandatory event cancellation insurance for three events. The audit also said Las Vegas Events did not comply with LVCVA travel expense policy for two spouses who accompanied employees on a business trip.

Las Vegas Events agreed to repay the budget overages with excess funds from the previous year. The LVCVA waived meal expense reimbursements on a one-time basis and warned Las Vegas Events to comply with policy in the future. The report did not indicate the amount that was not in compliance.

Las Vegas Events officials did not return calls for comment.

Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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