Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2014

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2020 Vision:

Official: Las Vegas can be transport hub of the West

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Leila Navidi

Tom Skancke, who envisions high-speed rail being built in Las Vegas, stands at the Interstate 215 underpass at Decatur Boulevard.

By 2020 we’ll see major transportation improvements to meet the needs of this community as we continue to grow, with the Regional Transportation Commission leading the way.

Interstate 15 will get a lot more congested because of growth. There will be expansion of I-15 south of Tropicana Avenue and a tremendous investment north of Cheyenne Avenue. You will see additional collector and distributor roads along I-15, and an expansion of the express lanes. I-15 will take on a new look from Craig Road all the way to Blue Diamond Road. Because the fuel tax is no longer reliable, I’m hoping there is some form of congestion pricing to help pay for the roads, where you pay more for driving during peak times.

One project I look forward to is construction of Interstate 11 from Las Vegas to Phoenix. You can’t have only one interstate running through this town and remain globally competitive and provide the economic development this community is going to need. Construction of I-11 should certainly begin within the next 10 years and I give it a 50-50 chance of being completed by 2020.

China just inked a deal with Mexico to build a deep water port in Baja California, which will provide a tremendous stream of goods coming up through Arizona. I-11 would provide a new route to move those goods from Mexico. In fact, if you’re looking at 2020, Las Vegas by then should become an inland port, a port of entry that would create thousands and thousands of jobs. You could have warehousing jobs, manufacturing jobs, high-tech, Silicon Valley-type jobs.

Las Vegas is positioned extremely well to be a hub of distribution in the West when you consider the interstates, existing rail lines and possibility for high-speed rail. And I’d love to have the port fees to help balance the state budget. The best place for an inland port, in my opinion, would be south of town next to the Ivanpah Valley airport, which I believe has a good chance of opening by 2020.

Remember that the Obama administration, Congress and in particular Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have said that rapid transit and high-speed rail are the future of our country.

We should have a fully integrated system by 2020 that includes both bus rapid transit with express services and buses that make frequent stops. For instance, you could have a bus that takes you directly from Red Rock Station to Palace Station. Or you could have a transit line along Sahara Avenue with stops at Jones Boulevard, I-15 and the Strip. It’ll operate like a light rail system, only better because you have more flexibility with where you can have the dedicated right of way. The most likely candidates for bus rapid transit corridors are Boulder Highway, North Fifth Street, Sahara Avenue, Rancho Drive, Flamingo Road, Desert Inn Road, Maryland Parkway, Paradise Road and Industrial Road/Dean Martin Drive.

We have to help people get out of their cars because we can’t build our way out of this congestion.

I also give it a 60-40 chance that we’ll have high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif., by then. Of the competing proposals for high-speed rail, the DesertXpress project appears to be ahead of the curve and I think it’ll get there.

Tom Skancke is a transportation consultant and president of Skancke Co. Ltd., Las Vegas.

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