Legislation may push light-rail between airport, Las Vegas

A bill working its way through the state Legislature could advance efforts to develop, build and operate a light rail line connecting McCarran International Airport, the Strip and downtown Las Vegas as soon as 2023 — assuming all the funding is secured.

Senate Bill 149, introduced by state Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, would allow the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada to find ways to pay for the project, including federal grants and an option to ask voters whether sales taxes should be increased.

RTC officials repeatedly stressed that there aren’t any immediate plans to hike the sales tax.

By summer, the RTC will release environmental assessments that would allow for construction of either a light rail line or bus rapid transit along Maryland Parkway.

It would cost $573 million to $703 million to build a light rail line, compared to a lower-cost bus rapid transit line estimated at $298 million to $367 million, RTC officials said. Operating and maintenance costs for both systems would range from $7 million to $12 million annually.

If approved, SB 149 would also expand an existing law that solely addresses “fixed guideway systems” to allow for construction of the Las Vegas Monorail during the 1990s.

The revision would allow the RTC, county and Las Vegas city officials to go beyond offering traditional bus service and move toward “high-capacity transit” options, including light rail, streetcars and express bus commuter lines.

The state Senate must take a vote on SB 149 by April 14 in order to stay alive and move on to the Assembly, RTC officials said.

“Given the advancements in transportation and technology, our current statute is antiquated,” RTC General Manager Tina Quigley said. “This legislation helps prepare us for the next evolution of transportation in Nevada.”

Half-track not qualified

Dan from Las Vegas owns a 1941 military half-track with rubber tires and says he was told the vehicle was illegal by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

For those who don’t know, half-tracks have traditional wheels in the front, while the back of the vehicle is propelled by continuous tracks — similar to a tank.

Dan said some of his friends who own similar vehicles are running into the same problem — even those who previously had vintage plates issued by the neighboring state of California.

Half-tracks can’t be registered for general use on Nevada’s roads, DMV spokesman Kevin Malone said. They may, however, be registered as an off-highway vehicle.

Some half-tracks, like Dan’s, might even qualify for “antique truck” designation, which would restrict its use to shows, exhibitions, parades or similar activities, Malone said. Of course, the vehicle would have to be transported or towed to the event, rather than hitting the road.

Meter in the median

A meter, guarded by a few concrete posts, recently appeared on the median along Flamingo Road, between McLeod Drive and Pecos Road, according to Richard from Las Vegas.

Richard wanted to know why this meter was installed, and smartly suggested that they be painted either yellow or red so that drivers can see them.

Those concrete posts are protecting an air valve that belongs to the Las Vegas Valley Water District, RTC spokeswoman Angela Castro said.

A cover will be placed over the valve within the next two weeks, Castro said.

And plans are underway to paint those concrete posts — we just don’t yet know what color.

Pokey drivers

During his daily commute to work in Las Vegas, Michael from Moapa said he regularly gets stuck behind motorists driving 70 mph in the left lane, when the posted speed limit is 75 mph.

“They’ll be getting passed by big rigs, and they won’t move over,” Michael wrote in an email to the Road Warrior. “It’s like their brains have ceased to function.”

Michael has become so frustrated that he wants to know whether the Nevada Department of Transportation plans to install signs asking slower drivers to stay right.

Since there’s no law that prohibits driving below the speed limit, there are no plans to erect additional highway signs, NDOT spokesman Tony Illia said.

“A 5 mile-per-hour differential is hardly cause for concern,” Illia said.

You might find some relief from bills recently introduced by Republican Assemblymen John Ellison of Elko and Chris Edwards of Las Vegas. The bills call for making it a misdemeanor to drive too slow in the fast lane, with a $50 fine for first-time offenders.

Road repair planned

Roy from North Las Vegas wanted to know whether the city planned to smooth out a pockmarked stretch of Commerce Street, between Craig and Washburn roads.

A project will be out for bid this month, and construction is expected to begin within three months, North Las Vegas city spokeswoman Delen Goldberg said.

Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow @RJroadwarrior on Twitter.

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