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BLM official questions plan to transfer federal acreage for speedway parking

WASHINGTON — The Las Vegas Motor Speedway wants to add 115 acres to its customer parking, but the Bureau of Land Management is driving to upgrade the deal.

At a House hearing Tuesday, the BLM raised questions about a bill that would allow race officials to buy federal property northeast of the main track after a fair market appraisal. A federal official said the land value would need to be increased if the speedway decided to sell sand and gravel off the site.

Ed Roberson, a BLM assistant director, hinted the government might be able to maximize its profits by putting the land up for auction rather than favoring a single buyer, although other officials questioned who else might want to build next to the roar of race machinery.

The BLM "does not oppose the conveyance of these lands out of federal ownership for full fair market value," Roberson said in his testimony. The agency wants "to ensure that the conveyance results in the best possible return for the public."

The session before the subcommittee on national parks, forests and public lands was the second attempt by Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to win passage of the bill.

A similar one made little headway when introduced midway through last year. Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign had a corresponding bill.

The speedway, Heller said at the hearing, "is an important economic engine in Southern Nevada." Last weekend’s Shelby 427 Sprint Cup race drew about 140,000 spectators.

"Alleviating traffic is the highest and best use of this land," Heller said, adding there were no plans to do anything with the property aside from converting it to parking.

Neither Heller nor speedway officials in Las Vegas could say how many more vehicles might be accommodated by the extra space, but the speedway’s president, Chris Powell, said it would be an important component of any expansion plans.

Heller, a stock car enthusiast who has raced around the 1.5 mile oval at speeds close to 150 mph, said he and the senators would continue to work with the BLM on the bill before Congress takes action.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

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