Future of tourism is at stake

Infrastructure in Las Vegas is in need of upgrading, and someone has to pay for it

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

Look for the U.S. Travel Association to turn up the heat on federal lawmakers to invest in transportation infrastructure.

Erik Hansen, the USTA’s director of domestic policy, said the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the nation’s infrastructure a grade of D+ in 2013 and an investment of $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 to keep it from falling apart.

It’s a critical topic for Las Vegas, which depends on a sturdy transportation infrastructure to deliver the visitors who look to the Entertainment Capital of the World for a good time.

There’s good and bad news about transportation here.

First, the bad: It’s going to be expensive, and everybody won’t be on the same page on how to solve the myriad problems on the horizon. The cost of addressing these issues is going to come out of our pockets as well as the pockets of the tourists who visit us.

The voters, Legislature and Clark County Commission already have begun addressing how to generate more funds for surface transportation projects with the approval of fuel tax indexing that would increase revenue by more than $85 million a year within three years, costing the average motorist about $16 more a year at the pump.

Hansen said he expects his association would lobby for an increase in passenger facility charges on airplane tickets to fund airport improvements and the much-needed next-generation air transportation that would reduce flight delays and keep the skies safer.

If there’s good news, it’s that the city’s on the cutting edge on transportation issues, Hansen said.

Efficient transportation of passengers from McCarran International Airport to the Strip and downtown Las Vegas is essential. Connecting the city’s convention centers would get cars off the streets.

Meanwhile, a plan is underway to improve the Spaghetti Bowl freeway interchange. A plan is in place to finish the Beltway. Improvements are needed on Interstate 15 to Los Angeles, and development of the proposed Interstate 11 would expand the Arizona market.

And development of a high-speed ground transport system in the West, whether rail or maglev, is essential.

Hansen said his strategy with lawmakers would be to explain it as an investment. Whether fiscal conservatives see it that way is another story.

But the consequences in the future may be that Las Vegas tourism revenue fails to grow because moving people from place to place has ground to a halt.

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