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‘Infrastructure is so important’: RTC CEO talks future of travel in Las Vegas

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada wears many hats when it comes to infrastructure.

The RTC acts as the roadway funding agency for Southern Nevada, the public transit provider with the citywide bus and on-demand transportation offerings, and traffic manager.

While most people think of infrastructure as just bridges, roads and highways and things of that nature, the RTC thinks of its broader reach, agency CEO MJ Maynard said during an interview with the Road Warrior on transportation priorities.

“It’s really about how people move,” Maynard said. “How you’re moving goods and services and people and how to keep the economy moving. That infrastructure is so important.”

In the last 26 years, $3.7 billion has been invested in infrastructure projects throughout Southern Nevada.

Projects over that time include building out the 215 Beltway, the start of Interstate 11, road improvements on the Strip and enhancements to other major arterials to enable them to handle the massive growth Clark County has seen over the past two-and-a-half-decades.

Those projects came about as the RTC worked with local and state governments, the business community and public feedback from residents.

“We worked in a collaborative fashion to ensure that we are keeping our community moving forward,” Maynard said.

Transit upgrades

The RTC oversees 39 fixed bus routes that provide 49.6 million rides annually, making Las Vegas the 14th-busiest bus system in the U.S.

A major project RTC is spearheading is the Maryland Parkway bus rapid transit system, for which construction is expected to begin later this year.

Before the BRT option was chosen, a light-rail system was under consideration for the 12.5-mile route, which runs along Maryland Parkway from Harry Reid International Airport into downtown, including areas such as UNLV, the Bonneville Transit Center and the Medical District downtown, where UNLV School of Medicine is located.

The more than $1 billion price tag for a light-rail option was a deciding factor in favor of the cheaper $378 million BRT option to be approved.

Updating the transit line to include faster options than the standard bus line is part of what RTC will be exploring in the future.

A form of speedier transit already in use is the Game Day Express service used for Raiders and UNLV football games at Allegiant Stadium and Golden Knights games at T-Mobile Arena.

“The Game Day Express is a great example of putting together a system that not only gets people from where they are to where they want to go in a really quick manner, but as the traffic manager we know if not for the Game Day Express there would be another 1,500-2,000 cars trying to make their way into Allegiant Stadium,” Maynard said.

A similar service is also a possibility for Athletics MLB games for the team’s planned $1.5 billion Strip ballpark, which is projected to open in 2028.

Funding for such a massive investment comes from several buckets.

Highway funding

The three main sources of highway funding in Clark County are motor vehicle fuel tax, sales tax and fuel revenue indexing (FRI). Combined that equals to 23.1 cents per gallon of gas, with 9 cents of that tied to the Clark County vehicle fuel tax.

FRI, funding approved by voters that ties motor vehicle fuel tax to inflation, was first initiated in 2014 for a three-year term after it was approved by the Legislature in 2013. In 2016, voters approved a 10-year extension of the indexing.

The current program expires in 2026, and there are two options for the vital funding mechanism to be extended.

The matter could again be a ballot question to be approved by voters in 2026, as was the case for the 10-year extension, or the RTC could work with the Legislature in 2025 to allow for the continuance of fuel revenue indexing.

“If we do not continue indexing fuel tax inflation by the end of that 10-year program, so by 2034, we will have about $75 million to $100 million annually going forward, shared for all the jurisdictions, for infrastructure projects,” Maynard said.

That doesn’t include outlying Southern Nevada areas that also receive roadway funding.

“That does not provide for future growth — that strong economic growth that we continue to rely on in this community,” she said.

Future projects

Maynard noted that the 10-year capital improvement program includes all jurisdictions, Clark County and the cities of Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.

Over the next decade, hundreds of projects — with a combined estimated cost of about $2 billion — have been identified in the program. Each of those projects have identified funding.

“Not only lots and lots of new roadway infrastructure for the city of North Las Vegas and west Henderson areas that are building out, but you’re also seeing a lot of maintenance work done,” Maynard said. “Lots and lots of projects that are going to be happening for years to come.”

Making Boulder Highway safer

The Reimagine Boulder Highway project is aimed at making a 15-mile stretch of the road safer for all users. The project includes participation between the RTC, Clark County and the cities of Henderson and Las Vegas, and is slated to begin in Henderson later this year.

The project includes cutting the number of traffic lanes from six to four, upgrading pedestrian zones, widening sidewalks and enhancing street lighting. Center-running bus lanes and buffered bike lanes are also planned.

Outside of the Maryland Parkway BRT, the RTC is working with the city of Las Vegas on a high-capacity transportation study on the Charleston corridor. There, light-rail and bus-rapid transit are again potential options, dependent on the study’s outcome.

The RTC has discussed different high-capacity options over the years, including light rail, and the commission will keep revisiting options where it could make sense.

“For 20 years, that was our recommendation, is to implement some kind of high-capacity or light-rail system. … connecting downtown, the Strip and the airport,” Maynard said. “It didn’t get the support for various reasons.”

Adding light rail to a 17-mile stretch of Charleston, one of the busiest stretches of road in the valley connecting Summerlin to east Las Vegas, also will be partly dependent on available funding to construct and operate it.

“It’s certainly a possibility,” Maynard said.

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

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