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Las Vegas public transit, hit by pandemic, gets help from feds

Updated February 15, 2021 - 10:53 am

After a tumultuous year brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, public transportation in the Las Vegas Valley got a federal boost.

The Federal Transit Administration awarded the Regional Transportation Commission nearly $61 million in grants in response to the pandemic’s ongoing impacts.

A $60.1 million grant is aimed at providing funds to manage and maintain operational costs, including payroll, fuel and personal protective equipment and supplies.

“Due to pandemic-related revenue loss, federal assistance is crucial to allowing the RTC of Southern Nevada to maintain operations, keep its employees on the payroll and help Nevadans get to and from work,” said Rep. Dina Titus in a statement. “Public transit is a critical resource for frontline workers, seniors and individuals with disabilities in this time of need.”

RTC CEO MJ Maynard said that even before the pandemic “our transit service was already under significant financial strain, which only worsened over the past year due to lower sales tax and fare revenue, our two main sources of transit funding.

“Thanks to federal stimulus funding … the RTC is able to maintain safe and reliable transit service for our customers and keep essential staff like drivers, mechanics and security officers employed,” she added.

With the latest round of funding, RTC plans to restore some of the transit service that was cut, enhance security and allow the continuance of additional services such as helping seniors and the underserved during the pandemic, Maynard said.

“Public transportation is vital for our community, and we’re grateful for this assistance from the federal government that will allow us to continue providing a critically needed service,” Maynard added.

Early in the pandemic, the RTC was losing about $5 million in revenue per month after enacting rear-door boarding to protect drivers, which resulted in the agency stopping the enforcement of fare collection. The RTC received $112 million in CARES Act funding last year that went toward reimbursing some of those losses.

The RTC received an additional $500,000 in funding through the FTA’s COVID-19 Research Demonstration Grant Program. The program focuses on creating innovative solutions that improve the efficiency of transit agencies and improve the mobility of transit users impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The RTC will use that funding to install Europay, MasterCard and Visa certified electronic validators on its over 400 fixed-route buses. The new validators will allow the RTC to increase contactless payment options, in turn improving health measures with fewer touch points and reducing passenger loading times.

“We are incredibly fortunate to receive funds that support research in technology and innovative programs,” said Debra March, Henderson mayor and RTC chairwoman in a statement. “The health and well-being of RTC customers and operators remain top priorities. Introducing this new technology and equipment will improve service operations and minimize the risk of exposure with more contactless payment options.”

I-11 ramp closures

A series of ramp closures will impact Interstate 11 in Henderson for 10 days starting Monday.

The temporary closures are needed to place decorative rock and boulders alongside the interchange ramps and gores, the Nevada Department of Transportation announced last week.

The work is part of a $12.7 million, 6-mile-long I-11 upgrade between mile markers 16.8 and 22.8 in Henderson that began late last year.

“The rock and boulders — in addition to their aesthetic value — aid air quality by reducing fugitive airborne dust and limit stormwater runoff while also reducing soil erosion for better slope management,” said Tony Illia, NDOT spokesman.

The evening ramp closures on I-11 and College Drive include:

Monday night – Tuesday morning

The College Drive onramp to I-11 southbound and the I-11 northbound offramp at College Drive will be closed from 7 p.m. Monday until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Tuesday night – Wednesday morning

The College Drive on and offramps at I-11 southbound will be closed from 7 p.m. Tuesday until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Wednesday night – Friday morning

The I-11 southbound offramp at College Drive will be closed from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. nightly, starting Wednesday night and concluding Friday.

Sunday night – Feb. 25

The I-11 southbound offramp at College Drive will be closed from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. nightly, starting Sunday night and ending at 6 a.m. Feb. 25.

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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