The plan to build a mass-transit system along Charleston Boulevard is a good idea, but Las Vegas’ transportation challenges need to be addressed on multiple fronts, an urban development expert says.
Professor Robert Lang, who heads the Brookings Mountain West think tank and teaches at UNLV, told State of Nevada the privately funded Charleston project could make traveling east-west easier, but the community also needs to address the Strip and Maryland Parkway, a major north-south arterial.
He is concerned, however, about it being privately funded. He pointed out that the Las Vegas Monorail was privately funded, and it stopped across the street from McCarran International Airport.
Plus, he said having something privately funded is not much to be proud of because other cities have had similar projects largely funded by federal dollars.
“It is ridiculous to think that we’re going to pass on the Biden once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.
Lang noted that the government funding for the project is actually tax dollars funneled from Nevada to Washington, D.C., but Nevada is not doing a great job of getting money back from the federal government to fund infrastructure projects.
“I don’t know any place that has not dipped into this giant saucer of resources,” he said.
He would like to see the Charleston Boulevard project link up with a Maryland Parkway light-rail system.
“We do need that link. The lines could cross. The lines could have cross-ticketing. It would be neat,” he said.
He also said the tunnels planned by Elon Musk’s Boring Co. through the resort corridor could ease Strip congestion and demonstrate Las Vegas’ commitment to innovative transportation technologies.
“They are perfectly sympatico and they even connect to our monorail and you could say Vegas is the most railed city in America,” he said.
With that said, he would like to have the public be part of the process.
“I just think [projects] ought to be vetted publicly and put before Nevada citizens,” he said.
If the public has weighed in, then there is more security when problems arise because the voters have already bought into the idea.
Lang is currently updating the economic blueprint he helped write a decade ago as Nevada struggled through the Great Recession.
“The report is going to ask where have been the successes, where have been the failures,” he said.
Some of the successes of the original plan include UNLV getting Tier 1 research status, Allegiant Stadium and the section of Interstate 11 that connects to Las Vegas.
The revised plan is expected to be released this fall on the 10th anniversary of the original proposal.
“Vegas took a shock with COVID and it took one of the most unbearable shocks you could get, so did Orlando, and yet, you see as things crawl out from COVID… you are already looking at a sort of banner 2022,” Lang said.
He believes it is time for Las Vegas to shine, and if the return to normal after the pandemic is not bungled, the city's return will be a national story.
Robert Lang, executive director, Brookings Mountain West
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