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Boulder City bypass eminent domain case settled

A state panel has settled an eminent domain dispute with a gaming giant over land the state needs for the first phase of the Boulder City Bypass.

The Board of Examiners on Tuesday approved another $2.75 million for an action brought by MGM Resorts International, owner of the Railroad Pass, regarding customer access to the casino and some land the property holds. The state needs approximately 15 of the property’s 56 acres on both sides of U.S. Highway 93/95 bordering Boulder City in Henderson and will close current highway access from Henderson.

A previously approved deposit of $2.041 million for right of occupancy on the land while the settlement was negotiated brings the total settlement to $5.2 million, including improvements approved Tuesday.

MGM Resorts had contended that losing its frontage access would reduce the property’s visibility and cause a significant reduction in business. The company claimed a negative impact of $8.6 million that would probably force the casino to close.

MGM Resorts did not provide further comment Tuesday.

Rudy Malfabon, senior director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, said construction of a new interchange that the state will contribute $423,000 toward will give more direct access to property owners in the area and Boulder City.

“When you have a limited access ability like an interstate, you have to consider reasonable access to the property owners,” Malfabon told the board. “It has a more direct access for traffic that’s going to head into Boulder City rather than going down to the interchange at U.S. 95 and doubling back in their tracks.”

The $423,000 is for an interchange with signage, drainage, retaining wall and other improvements to help customers access Railroad Pass when the bypass is built.

Currently, the property’s frontage road is the highway up from Henderson and in from Boulder City. While the road from Boulder City will remain open, the highway up from Henderson will be closed to make way for a frontage road and new interstate linking the bypass, which will be part of Interstate 11, to Henderson.

The casino will pay the remainder of the projected $800,000 needed for the improvements.

Construction of the first phase is scheduled to start early 2015 and be completed by late 2016 or early 2017. Malfabon said the department anticipates advertising the phase one project for seven weeks starting Oct. 29.

The Boulder City bypass is a two-phase $600 million project. The Transportation Department is overseeing the 2.5-mile first phase, and the Regional Transportation Commission is in charge of the 12.5-mile loop that will run south of Boulder City.

In July, the Board of Examiners approved a $4.6 million payment for three acres of the Jericho Heights property in Henderson neighboring the Railroad Pass property. Malfabon said the department is close to a small settlement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for some land, and private landowner K&L Dirt.

The transportation board had projected in February 2013 spending as much as $14 million to settle the Railroad Pass case and as much as $86 million for all condemnation claims tied to the project.

Malfabon told the Board of Examiners, which includes Gov. Brian Sandoval, the department will apply to the Federal Highway Administration to be reimbursed for the costs of the settlements.

The settlement approval comes a few days after MGM Resorts announced it has reached an agreement to sell the state’s oldest casino to Henderson developer Joe DeSimone. Terms of that deal have not been disclosed.

Contact Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3882. Find him on Twitter: @KnightlyGrind

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