Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
As legislators revive discussions of a light-rail line stretching across the Las Vegas Valley, the first phase of a transit system intended as a more affordable substitute is months from operation. The ACE Downtown Connector bus line is expected to start this winter.
The first line of ACE will link the county government buildings in downtown Las Vegas to resorts on the Strip, Town Square, the Las Vegas Outlet Center and finally to the South Strip Transfer Terminal at Sunset Road and Gilespie Street.
The route starts near Charleston Boulevard and Grand Central Parkway and proceeds north to the World Market Center and Union Park before heading south on Casino Center Boulevard at Fremont Street. Along that part of the line, the buses will travel in their own lane, separated from traffic by medians. Before the buses reach Las Vegas Boulevard, they’ll travel in the regular traffic mix.
Near the county government center on Grand Central, the dedicated lanes are complete. Construction of these lanes is ongoing on Casino Center Boulevard, prompting some road closures. Casino Center between Bonneville and Lewis avenues and again from Coolidge Avenue to Charleston is closed to traffic, though the intersections on Casino Center from Bonneville to Coolidge are open to cross-street traffic.
Construction is estimated at $52 million, according to Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada spokeswoman Tracy Bower. Federal and local funding contributed to the project.
Although the buses aren’t exact facsimiles of light rail, there are similarities: ACE will have stations with platforms, the buses resemble trains and passengers will buy tickets before boarding.
Starting in January, ACE and Deuce (another bus line) will cost $3 for a one-way ride, $7 for a day pass and $65 for a monthly pass.
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Assemblyman Harry Mortenson recently asked the state Transportation Department to consider helping bicyclists on Kyle Canyon and Lee Canyon roads to Mount Charleston.
On a recent drive to Mount Charleston, he noted that bicyclists lacked a path or wide shoulder, forcing vehicles into oncoming traffic lanes to avoid them. In a letter to state Transportation Director Susan Martinovich, he called the situation perilous.
Mortenson, a Las Vegas Democrat, proposes adding bike paths or widening shoulders on those roads, as well as building more parking spaces to accommodate winter visitors.
Martinovich responded that a 2005 study funded by the National Forest Highway Program recommended bike lanes, but that the U.S. Forest Service worries that adding shoulder width could disturb flora and fauna.
But parking and enforcement could be coming, Martinovich noted, thanks to $3 million in anticipated project funding from the Central Federal Lands Highway Division. She added that her department shares Mortenson’s concerns.
A survey of Mount Charleston’s roads has been scheduled for July 10.
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It happens nightly: Pedestrians rushing across dimly lit Las Vegas Boulevard at Wigwam Avenue — an intersection with marked crosswalks and flashing caution lights — as vehicles speed down the thoroughfare.
A woman was struck and killed there last summer, prompting an August rally of angry residents campaigning for a traffic light. About 50 campaigners slowed traffic for more than a mile.
Bobby Shelton, a spokesman for the county’s public works department, says a traffic light has long been planned for that location, and is expected to be installed by the end of May, at a cost of $267,000.
The county plans to add a third lane in each direction on Las Vegas Boulevard between Sunset Road and Silverado Ranch Boulevard — an estimated $5 million project to include traffic lights at Wigwam and Serene avenues that could be completed by year’s end. (Much of the pavement for the extra lanes exists.)
The Wigwam light was removed from the larger project to hasten its completion, Shelton says.