Las Vegas mulls $12.5bn rail plan to prevent “complete transport breakdown”

Concerned about total traffic gridlock in car-loving Las Vegas, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) has presented proposals to build a $12.5bn light rail system between the city’s famous Strip and its international airport.

The Transportation Investment Business Plan puts forward a number of ideas to improve mobility in the city over the next 20 years, including a rail system that may be overground or underground, and self-driving cars.

I find it hard to believe our community cannot come together to help build a world-class transportation system– Senator Mark Manendo

More prosaically, the commission also suggests just adding stops to the city’s existing monorail system, and installing more pedestrian bridges and taxi staging areas.

The plan is intended to pre-empt what the commission regards as a developing transport crisis.

In its 2015 investment plan, it pointed out that the annual number of people visiting Las Vegas is forecast to grow from 42 million at present to 53 million by 2030. By 2040, the population of Clark County, which includes the city of Las Vegas, is set to grow by 50%, from 2 million to 3 million.

The 2015 plan recognises that the area’s roadways and infrastructure are experiencing "significant and growing strain".

"Within the next two decades," it said, "every key corridor except two will exceed capacity, resulting in the lowest classified levels of service, referred to in engineering terms as an ‘F’ grade – a complete breakdown in traffic flow."

That plan was the first to recommend a "seamless, high-capacity transit link between McCarran International Airport, the Resort Corridor and Downtown Las Vegas".

The plan does not deal with the issue of funding, however Associated Press reports that a bill was put before the Nevada senate on 14 March that would give officials the authority to raise taxes or apply for federal grants to finance transport projects, as well as exploring novel technologies such as self-driving cars.

Senator Mark Manendo, commented: "If we can lead in the travel and tourism industry – and who can dispute that, accommodating more than 42 million visitors a year – I find it hard to believe our community cannot come together to help build a world-class transportation system."

The Construction Dive website notes that the development of light rail may be hampered by the poor performance of the city’s monorail, which has failed to attract passengers and filed for bankruptcy in 2010. The RTC proposal includes an expansion of that $650m system.

Image: The city relies almost entirely on vehicles for its mobility (Rain Rannu)

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