A proposal heard in Nevada’s Senate Transportation Committee last week would give new authority to local officials wanting to pursue funding options for transportation. The plan is a first step toward constructing a new light-rail line in Las Vegas.
The transit addition has been in the works for several years, the Associated Press reports. It would link McCarran International Airport with the Las Vegas Strip. But members of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada need the state’s permission to go beyond the drawing board and pursue funding. This latest proposal (SB 149) would give them more freedom to go directly to local voters or the federal government, to propose tax increases or obtain grants.
Tina Quigley, general manager of Southern Nevada’s RTC, told the AP that the agency studied light-rail systems and transportation authorities in Denver, Phoenix, San Diego and Salt Lake City while crafting the bill. She emphasized “the need to very clearly define that regional transportation authorities have the jurisdiction to pursue mass transit systems,” the AP reports.
The light rail will cost an estimated $12.5 billion and could take up to 30 years to build. In the short term, the RTC may have better luck going to voters than the federal government. President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint, released last week, recommends a 13 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s budget, which would amount to about $2.4 billion annually. Trump’s plan proposes axing new grants by the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program and doing away with the TIGER grant program.
But Las Vegas planners are serious about the need for an alternative to cars. Light rail was included in a master plan, released last year, to help alleviate congestion and ensure that the city remains attractive to the conventioneers who have become an economic staple.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.