Back from the dead

We thought the 2009 Legislature might be too busy figuring how to cut and pay for state operations to meddle in local government affairs. But state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, apparently has enough time on his hands to visit Clark County’s graveyard of deceased policy ideas and dig up a fresh corpse.

Senate Bill 115 would revive a proposed fixed transit line from Nevada State College at Henderson to an envisioned future North Las Vegas campus of UNLV, running through the Strip and downtown Las Vegas in between.

That plan was studied for more than a year and scaled back by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. Light rail was rejected for its high construction and operational costs, as well as its inflexibility. In addition, the proposed route would have very little demand among potential riders, and even if traffic congestion significantly worsens in the valley over the next two decades, the line wouldn’t get users to their destinations any quicker than a car. The RTC Board changed the route and decided to go with buses over trains.

Sen. Schneider’s bill would override those local government decisions and replace them with a state law that forces cities and the county to acquire the right of way for the route’s corridor, returns it to a route that was rejected because of public opposition, and mandates that the corridor be used for nothing but public transit. Sen. Schneider said during a Thursday hearing that he wants the route to employ light rail technology.

“We have to show some courage. We have to do something different,” he said.

Taxpayers have been told by Democratic lawmakers and higher education officials that college campuses might have to be closed because of the state’s crushing recession. What makes Sen. Schneider think taxpayers will ever be able to afford building another UNLV campus when the institution is already sucking the treasury dry? And how will cash-strapped local governments be able to pay for right of way and light-rail construction costs when they can barely meet the payrolls of their unionized work forces?

This is another Nevada public works boondoggle waiting to happen. Sen. Schneider should focus his energy on state issues and withdraw Senate Bill 115.

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