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Idea of new airport south of Las Vegas Valley takes off again

Updated September 18, 2018 - 8:15 pm

Clark County is reviving plans to open an airport in the Ivanpah Valley.

County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to prepare to conduct an environmental impact study for building the airport on 6,000 acres of undeveloped federal land along Interstate 15 between Jean and Primm, about 32 miles south of Las Vegas. The proposal had been put on hold after the recession caused a drop in tourism.

County Aviation Director Rosemary Vassiliadis told commissioners the airport would supplement McCarran International Airport as the county’s population grows, more resort hotels open and football fans come to the area to see Raiders games.

“This is a crucial part of our future in this valley,” Vassiliadis said.

Commissioner Jim Gibson said the plans could be a great boon to the growing county.

“The enormity of the economic impact should the development of the airport happen is something we should not lose sight of,” he said.

With a record 48.5 million passengers using McCarran International Airport, Nevada’s busiest, last year, Vassiliadis said the county must prepare now for the growth that is to come.

“We feel with the type of aircraft that we have coming in and out today that we could sustain 60 million (passengers) without any delay factor, without any big obstruction to the operation,” she said. “We can accommodate about 35,000 additional hotel rooms to get to that number, so it just depends on when we are going to approach that.”

Building an airport so far south of the Las Vegas Valley is necessary because of airspace restrictions north of Charleston Boulevard due to Nellis Air Force Base, Vassiliadis said.

“Commercial airlines cannot go in that airspace, so that then does give us some restrictions and some capacity issues at a peak time,” she said. The proposed location “gives a lot more flexibility of airspace than we have here at McCarran.”

The Bureau of Land Management and Federal Aviation Administration will oversee the environmental impact study process, Vassiliadis said.

The study will likely begin in the first quarter of 2019 and take close to two years to complete.

It will cost the airport somewhere between $5 million and $7 million, Vassiliadis said.

If the study favors building the airport at that location, the federal government is poised to give the county an additional 17,000 acres of surrounding land at no cost, Vassiliadis said. That land could be used for industrial and commercial development.

Vassiliadis said she would not predict when the airport would open until after the study is complete.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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