Advances in Las Vegas’ transportation infrastructure vital to successful economy


Steve Marcus

A Tesla electric car heads into a tunnel during a tour of the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop on April 9.

Thu, Dec 23, 2021 (2 a.m.)

Las Vegas tourism has come roaring back to life from the pandemic. And with it comes a recognition that improving tourism transportation infrastructure is a key part of keeping the visitor experience a happy one.

We must ensure that it is easy to get to and from Las Vegas by air, car and, eventually, train. And then tourists must find that Las Vegas and our tourism corridor are a relatively easy place to navigate once they arrive.

With the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center has come Elon Musk’s Boring Company and the underground tunnels that whisk visitors around that 200-plus-acre site. Tunnels are being bored, extending the Vegas Loop to Resorts World Las Vegas and then to other locations along the Strip, Downtown and to Harry Reid International Airport. This is an exciting development, especially for taxpayers, since the system is being paid for entirely by the private sector. (Additionally, the county also receives franchise fees from the Boring Company to help cover the cost of government services.)

Jim Gibson

Jim Gibson

The proliferation of pro sports and mega-events such as the NFL draft, Super Bowl 58 in 2024, stadium-sized concerts and more add to the need to build out Interstate 15 and make improvements to that important arterial.

Clark County is working closely with the Nevada Department of Transportation on the $305 million I-15/Tropicana interchange vital to moving traffic more quickly around the south Strip, Allegiant Stadium and T-Mobile Arena.

South of the Strip, Brightline West has purchased 110 acres along Las Vegas Boulevard between Warm Springs and Blue Diamond roads to build a multimodal terminal for its high-speed, zero-emission rail line to Los Angeles. The company projects it will transport 11 million passengers a year.

Meanwhile, Amtrak has suggested bringing back service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas since Congress provided funding for new routes throughout the nation. Ours is the nation’s largest community without passenger rail service.

Clark County Aviation staff continue to work on opening up more underserved markets while increasing the frequency of flights from places where we already enjoy nonstop service. So far, we have seen some great success. For November, Las Vegas was the fourth-most recovered U.S. market, and our TSA checkpoint volume was No. 5 in the country. Our level of daily round trips is at 90% of where we were during the same time in 2019. We see more than 500,000 “seats” flying in each week, and as of this month we have 10 more nonstop U.S. markets than were served here in December 2019.

Recent key returns include Virgin Atlantic and British Airways from London last month, and recently we saw the return of KLM (Amsterdam) and Copa (Panama City). Southwest continues to add markets, including service to the Hawaiian islands last summer, and Spirit Airlines has indicated it will start daily service to Memphis, Tennessee, this spring. This is just a sampling of the return of airlines over Las Vegas skies.

Prior to the pandemic, international visitors made up 15% of our visitor base while spending about 50-60% more than domestic guests. So we need to keep working hard to bring these guests back while recognizing that not everyone will be comfortable with it so long as the pandemic marches on. (This is where I’d like to encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so—not just for your health and that of your family, but for reviving the Las Vegas economy.)

The largest obstacle to free-flowing traffic is I-15, where there is finally momentum for change. I’d like to thank Gov. Steve Sisolak for reaching out to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who agreed to put $12 million into adding a temporary third lane to southbound I-15 between the state line and California’s agriculture station, where the highway already expands to three lanes.

California will repave and restripe the shoulder so it can be used during peak congestion times, primarily Sundays and Mondays. The project will be completed by this summer while permanent solutions are considered. This is excellent news for the more than 10 million visitors and locals who use this corridor each year.

Meanwhile, we’re building infrastructure on the Strip to accommodate autonomous vehicles when they become safe to operate there. Clark County has installed more than 100 dedicated short-range communication devices for autonomous vehicles there and will add more. These boxes allow for high-data transmission and enable autonomous vehicles to communicate with each other and stay informed about the surrounding environment.

There isn’t room to expand the Strip. But between Sahara Avenue and the 215 Beltway, Clark County is in the midst of a project that modifies intersections to improve pedestrian crossings, upgrades traffic signal and street lighting systems with smart poles, enhances median landscaping with LED lighting, and replaces water lines and pavement.

All in all, there is a lot of momentum behind bringing improvements to our tourism transportation infrastructure in the resort corridor and beyond. This brings benefits not only to our visitors, but to locals who use this infrastructure and whose livelihoods are often tied to the health of our tourist economy.

Jim Gibson is a Clark County commissioner and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board member.

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