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When could Las Vegas Valley get another airport? Officials provide progress update

Clark County is expected to take its next big step toward developing an airport in the Ivanpah Valley south of Las Vegas by early summer.

That’s when it hopes to hire a consultant to guide the drafting of an environmental assessment of 6,000 acres between Jean and Primm where two runways and a terminal would be built to relieve air traffic at Harry Reid International Airport. The airport wouldn’t open until 2037, airport leaders, led by Aviation Director Rosemary Vassiliadis and Clark County Commissioners Jim Gibson and Michael Naft, said in a Tuesday briefing.

The project could cost between $6 billion and $14 billion, but airport officials declined to provide an exact price tag, as a private-public partnership could be formed to build it and almost certainly the airport would receive federal grant support.

In the meantime, officials with the Clark County Department of Aviation said they will continue to come up with ways to keep customer service levels high and minimize flight delays at Las Vegas’ primary airport as air traffic continues to grow with sports and entertainment expansion attracting more and more tourists and passengers.

Reid International served a record 57.6 million passengers in 2023, surpassing the previous record of 52.6 million in 2022. Reid currently is the fifth busiest airport in the world in aircraft takeoffs and landings, the seventh busiest in North America and 12th busiest in the world by numbers of passengers with 30 airlines offering flights to 159 domestic and international destinations as of March.

Other key takeaways from the briefing:

The two runways at the new airport — one at least 15,000 feet long — and the terminal building will be on the east side of Interstate 15, parallel to the highway.

The supplemental airport will be for commercial air carriers, general aviation and cargo planes. Officials said decisions on which airlines would serve the airport likely wouldn’t be made until just before the airport’s planned opening in 2037. Vassiliadis noted that several airlines offer flights to multiple airports serving a single city or region — Dulles International, Ronald Reagan National Airport, Baltimore Washington International in the Washington D.C. area and O’Hare and Midway International in Chicago among them.

County aviation officials will be teaming with the Bureau of Land Management and the Federal Aviation Administration to make decisions on four phases of development — planning, design, construction and operation. The environmental review comes at the end of the planning phase and at the beginning of design and a request for qualifications for a consultant to assist with the environmental review has been distributed with the consultant selection likely to be made by the County Commission in June.

Once the FAA issues its decision on the environmental review, the county will be able to acquire an additional 17,000 acres for a transportation and utilities corridor to serve the new airport. County officials said airports generally are low water users so Southern Nevada’s water situation isn’t likely to affect the project.

County officials say they are studying all transportation options, including the prospect of high-speed rail between Las Vegas and the new airport. While Brightline plans to build high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Southern California that would pass right by the new airport, no plans have been negotiated for an airport stop.

New airport planned years ago

This isn’t the first time a secondary airport has been in the planning stages by the county.

The Ivanpah Valley site was among 16 locations initially scouted for a supplemental airport. Those sites were narrowed to four — Apex, the Moapa Indian Reservation north of Las Vegas, the Eldorado Valley near Boulder City and Ivanpah. Apex and Moapa were eliminated because the airspace had potential airspace conflicts with Nellis Air Force Base and Ivanpah had lower potential development costs than Eldorado. Besides, BLM land was available at Ivanpah and that site had multiple direct routes to and from the Las Vegas Strip.

The 6,000 acres of public land was transferred to Clark County in 2000 and an environmental assessment began in 2005. But the Great Recession put the project on hold and the environmental impact statement process was suspended in 2010.

It wasn’t until 2018 that the joint lead agencies were re-engaged on the project.

The record numbers of passengers at Reid over the past two years has made it clear that a new airport is needed sooner rather than later. But Reid officials say they are working with commercial air carriers to find ways to best accommodate passengers.

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

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