Consultant: Road, highway issues could become a problem for Las Vegas tourism
Traffic is getting worse in the resort corridor, and unless some of Southern Nevada’s road and highway problems are solved soon, tourists will start looking elsewhere for weekend getaways, a Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority transportation consultant warned.
Tom Skancke, president of the Skancke Co., told LVCVA board members today that solutions will be politically unpopular, but unless issues are addressed, area streets and highways will become frequently gridlocked.
“Transportation projects are not popular until they’re done,” Skancke told the board.
He said most local motorists travel surface streets when Interstate 15 fills with cars, but by 2030, I-15 and surface streets will fail to meet demand.
“And it’s already happening,” Skancke said.
Surface streets most severely impacted by traffic are Las Vegas and Charleston boulevards; Flamingo, Desert Inn and Paradise roads; and I-15.
Skancke made the report to the board, but the problem solvers would have to be the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and the Nevada Department of Transportation, which have worked with the LVCVA when transportation issues have been raised.
Traffic solutions could come in several forms, Skancke said:
A light-rail system. “I think we’re going to need light rail sooner rather than later,” Skancke said. A system within the resort corridor could transport tourists as well as deliver Strip employees to their workplaces.
An eastside freeway. Adding a new beltway link has been discussed over the years but deemed impractical because hundreds of homes would have to condemned and residents relocated. Skancke said an alternate travel route would relieve traffic in busy areas.
Improvements to I-15. The RTC and NDOT have already begun work on the third phase of the $1.7 billion Project Neon, a planned upgrade around the Spaghetti Bowl intersection. There are plans for a new flyover bridge linking northbound U.S. 95 to southbound I-15 high occupancy vehicle lanes. I-15’s Charleston Boulevard exit will be redesigned in anticipation of more traffic generated by the planned Resorts World Las Vegas project.
Skancke praised the Clark County Commission for recently agreeing to raise and index fuel taxes, which would generate funds needed for projects.
Board member Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman asked that Skancke develop a timeline for projects, and member Paul Chakmak, a Boyd Gaming executive, concurred that the time is right to move forward on transportation projects.
Amid the grim transportation news, Skancke offered a few bright spots.
A $3 billion highway improvement project between Victorville and DeVore, Calif., that will run through 2015 won’t require any lane closures during construction. The project involves the I-15/Interstate 215 intersection in San Bernardino County and five I-15 interchanges.
I-15 projects in the early 2000s required lane closures that bottlenecked Las Vegas-bound traffic on weekends.
Skancke also reported that the agriculture inspection station on I-15 at Yermo, Calif., will soon close and be replaced by a $54 million station to be built just south of Primm next year. The new station, which would be used more to inspect boats in transit for invasive quagga mussels instead of agriculture, would have 16 lanes to prevent traffic jams at the California border.