RTC to consider $750M light-rail line near Las Vegas airport, UNLV

First of a three-part series.

Good luck boarding the bus on Maryland Parkway.

Seats get snatched up pretty quickly during the weekday commutes along Route 109, running between McCarran International Airport and the Bonneville Transit Center in downtown Las Vegas.

A couple of miles into the ride, the standing group of riders resembles a pack of sardines squeezed into a metal container hurtling down one of the region’s busiest corridors.

“The bus usually gets so crowded, I can hardly move,” said Dave Mueller, who has boarded Route 109 every day over the past three years to get to his job as an adult caretaker.

“Even if there’s another bus right behind, they’re still jammed,” Mueller, 43, said. “If there was a better way, I’d take it.”

A solution could be identified in September, when the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada will consider whether to build a $750 million light-rail line that would primarily run along Maryland Parkway starting by 2025.

This month, an RTC advisory committee made up of 36 local business, tourism and union leaders recommended moving forward with the light-rail plan.

Less costly options under consideration include a set of bus rapid transit lanes that could cost up to $335 million and starting by 2024, or a $29 million improvement project by 2020 for the east valley roadway, where more than 9,000 bus riders and 35,000 vehicles travel daily.

Opening day projections for a light-rail line with 24 proposed stops stand at 16,100 riders, while forecasts for a bus rapid transit line stand at 13,300 passengers, RTC officials said.

“The success of Maryland Parkway will literally set the tone for anything we do over the next generation here in Southern Nevada,” Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, who serves as the RTC’s chairman, said during the transit agency’s board meeting held in April.

Choosing Maryland

The RTC has spent several years devising a high-capacity transit plan for the Las Vegas Valley, a rapidly growing region that continues to heavily rely on vehicles.

A trip on the proposed light-rail line would last 32 minutes end-to-end on an 8.7-mile route that would start at the airport and travel past UNLV, Sunrise Hospital and Boulevard Mall along Maryland Parkway, cutting west on Carson Avenue through downtown Las Vegas.

From there, the route would head south on Casino Center Boulevard, near the Golden Nugget hotel-casino, to the Bonneville Transit Center, where it would veer west to go past the county administrative center, Las Vegas North Premium Outlets and on to a terminus at the future site of UNLV’s School of Medicine.

Commuters currently using the Route 109 bus expressed mixed reactions to the RTC’s plan for a light-rail line at a cost of more than $86.2 million per mile.

“I don’t think the city is big enough, there aren’t enough people living here,” Kiko Tauiliili, 39, said while waiting for a bus recently at Maryland and Flamingo Road. “I think that money should be spent on other parts of the city and improve the bus service we have right now.”

Other frequent bus riders, like part-time security officer Michael Perkins, said he supported a light-rail line on Maryland because it’s time for Las Vegas to “start looking like a big city.”

“It’s not a little desert city in a big, flat valley anymore,” Perkins said. “It’s a big city, and the buses are full all the time.”

Maryland Parkway came into focus as an ideal corridor in 2014 because of the heavy use along Route 109, which serves the most bus riders per mile outside of the Strip while also intersecting with 25 other bus lines.

Maryland Parkway light rail design rendering Las Vegas Review-Journal

Developers also view Maryland as a corridor that’s ripe for economic growth, with high-density residential and commercial projects that could potentially serve the university, mall and hospital.

“If light rail is successful along Maryland, the transit mode could potentially evolve into a network serving the entire region,” said David Swallow, the RTC’s senior director of engineering and technology.

“Maryland Parkway really is the connector of the valley,” Swallow said. “It stitches together our overall network.”

Landing at the airport

Soon, the Federal Transit Administration is expected to release environmental assessments that would allow the RTC to decide whether a light-rail line would fit in with Las Vegas.

From there, the RTC would gauge interest during a 30-day public comment period leading up to a decision by the transit agency’s board of directors in September.

If a light-rail line is approved, the RTC would need to start tracking down funding sources to pay for the project — likely through a mix of federal funds, fares and sales taxes.

Engineering and design for the project also would move ahead to shore up details for the route.

A challenge facing RTC officials is where to build a high-capacity transit stop for airline passengers looking for a convenient ride between McCarran International Airport and downtown Las Vegas.

One thing is guaranteed: Don’t expect the light-rail line to drop off riders directly outside the airport terminals.

“Future off-airport options will need to connect to a multimodal transportation center from which travelers could then connect on to or from the terminals,” airport spokesman Chris Jones said.

“There isn’t adequate space to accommodate multiple uses any other way,” Jones said. “The multimodal transportation center would be designed to accommodate more than one option.”

Potential sites for that multimodal transportation center will likely be included in an evaluation by Las Vegas-based engineering consultant GCW, which was recently hired to examine existing roadways and traffic conditions at the nation’s eighth-busiest airport, Jones said.

One spot long eyed by local transit officials is a chunk of airport-owned land known as the “tear drop,” given its odd shape nestled between Paradise Road, Swenson Street, Janis Lane and Kitty Hawk Way. Though the site is an option, GCW’s study could identify additional locations for a transit stop.

Jason Blackburn, an east valley resident who rides the Route 109 bus directly to his job at the airport’s car-rental complex, said he was skeptical of the plan.

A multimodal center, he said, would lengthen the commute Blackburn has taken since 2009.

“After taking the light rail to the end of the line at the airport, I would have to take another shuttle to the car rental center,” Blackburn said. “That would take more time.”

Evolving technology

By the end of this year, the RTC will release its so-called “On Board” study, which will examine how evolving technologies might help to improve access and capacity on some of Southern Nevada’s busiest corridors over the next 20 years.

For example, the proposed Maryland light-rail line might not require the use of overhead electrical lines — known as catenary wires — traditionally used by older models. Instead, the Las Vegas line could potentially operate with battery-operated vehicles similar to sections of Detroit’s light rail, along with a route under consideration in Seattle.

Although catenary wires will be listed as a “potential visual impact” in the RTC’s pending environmental assessment, officials said they won’t likely appear on Maryland Parkway. While battery-operated vehicles cost more to purchase, other transit agencies have reported reduced costs for infrastructure installation.

“Realistically, technology is developing in such a way that if we were to go forward with a rail option, then we would not have the overhead contact system,” said Swallow, the RTC’s engineering chief.

Additionally, the light-rail trains or bus rapid transit would share curbside lanes with vehicles traveling on Maryland, rather than running down a designated centerline strip as seen in most other cities.

The move, Swallow said, is aimed at preserving the current traffic capacity and allowing vehicles to turn left into existing commercial centers, all while introducing upgrades to the regional transit system.

The aesthetics don’t matter to Ronald Samy, who has frequently boarded the Route 109 bus since moving from India to the east valley a few months ago.

“There’s something about trains that people really like, so I would probably ride it more often than the bus,” Samy, 36, said at the Maryland-Flamingo stop. “It would also be better for people traveling to work because it would be faster and hopefully give us a little more room.”

Coming Monday: How to pay for a light-rail line.

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Find @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
News
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local
Poet’s Walk Henderson introduces storytelling
Residents enjoy a storytelling activity.
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like