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Cortez Masto hopes to steer Nevada’s transportation into the future

Updated August 25, 2021 - 7:13 pm

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is hoping to put Nevada on the road to the future.

Cortez Masto last week toured Motional, a company already carrying out forward-thinking operations in Las Vegas where it has partnered with Lyft to offer ride-hailing transportation in autonomous vehicles.

The joint effort has provided over 100,000 rides and there have been zero at-fault crashes during those rides and ones the company operates outside of the Lyft service.

A safety driver is in place for those rides at this time, but in 2023 Motional plans to provide rides with no driver at the wheel.

After taking a ride in a self-driving BMW, Cortez Masto said it was the type of operation she had in mind when pushing for several funding mechanisms tied to the bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the Senate.

“It’s around smart communities and smart vehicles a lot of the technology that you have here and that connectivity to smart communities and autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles,” Cortez Masto said. “The bipartisan infrastructure package supports resources, investments in that new technology. To me that’s important to Nevada.”

The potential Las Vegas has for smart city-related initiatives is promising. In addition to Motional, the city of Las Vegas has its Innovation District downtown and it piloted an autonomous shuttle service between 2017-18.

The city also is working with the Regional Transportation Commission on a project dubbed GoMed that features a similar autonomous shuttle service, transporting riders from the Bonneville Transit Center to the Medical District. It also features smart bus stops and crosswalks.

“We have so much entrepreneurship and innovation that you see, this is one example of it,” Cortez Masto said. “That really creates jobs. I mean, they’ve hired 250 to 300 people here in Nevada. It’s good for our economy and it really helps us prepare for the 21st century, which is that innovation economy.”

Cortez Masto noted three key pieces of the infrastructure bill that could benefit Nevada:

The Moving First Act would provide $500 million in grant funding for innovative transportation projects that help solve local challenges. Las Vegas has several companies that would qualify for funding, including Motional.

The STAT Act would reauthorize and improve the U.S. Department of Transportation’s smart transportation advisory group, develop a smart community resource center for communities and expand coordination of new and emerging transportation technologies.

The Transportation Opportunities for Professional Service Act would create a public service campaign promoting well-paying middle-class jobs in the transportation sectors.

“I think that it is important that those investments do come here to Nevada, to prepare us for our future,” Cortez Masto said.

The senator added that smar- city initiatives could play a role with the state’s constant effort to diversify the economy.

With the various transportation projects that involve new technologies already happening in the Las Vegas Valley, Cortez Masto believes the future is already here. The funding that could soon be available with the infrastructure bill will help further those causes.

“Our Regional Transportation Commission is already looking at that, they’re already partnering with these entrepreneurs,” she said. “They’re already thinking about our transit system that we need for the future. That’s what we want. … How do we take this new technology and take it to the transportation needs that we need in our community? It’s good for our community because it gives the people the mobility they want and the flexibility to get around.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.

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