If stars align, it looks like car-centric Las Vegas will soon place new bets on mass transit. This week state and local officials presented a preliminary plan to construct multi-billion-dollar light rail system in Sin City. The route, which has been in the works for more than two years, would link Las Vegas's airport, McCarran International, to the Strip. A bill under consideration in the state senate would give local officials authority to pursue federal grants or impose tax increases to fund transit, as well as emerging technologies like self-driving cars. Right now, state law forbids local transit commissions from creating "high-capacity" mass transit systems like the proposed railway, the Associated Press reports. Bill sponsor Mark Manendo was one of six elected officials at the meeting who said Las Vegas trails similar municipalities in mass transit development. "If we can lead in the travel and tourism industry—and who can dispute that, accommodating more than 42 million visitors a year—I find it hard to believe our community cannot come together to help build a world-class transportation system," Senator Manendo told the AP. To formulate its plan, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada looked to light rail systems in Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, and San Diego. In addition to trains, the commission is also considering other mass transit options to connect the city's college campuses, commercial corridors, hospitals, and residential districts. The senate bill, though, doesn't stop at Las Vegas, where a light rail line could cost $12.5 billion and take two or three decades to build. Reno, Nevada, could see transit improvements, as well, if the state's estimated $26 billion plan is approved and fully funded.
National Football League (NFL) owners voted almost unanimously yesterday to approve plans for the Oakland Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas, heralding what could be the final play in the nearly two-year-long drama that has unfolded as several West Coast-based teams reshuffle hometowns. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was the only dissenting vote, saying, “we as owners… owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us until all options have been exhausted.” Las Vegas city officials have been courting the Oakland Raiders for months, offering $750 million in public financing for the team’s Manica Architecture–designed $1.15 billion stadium proposal. The 65,000 seat stadium—a recycled scheme left over from the team’s attempt to move to Carson, California last year—features a large-scale, retractable side wall that would allow the stadium to become partially open-air. The domed structure will potentially be located on either a site nearby the Mandalay Bay casino complex on the Las Vegas Strip, or atop a current portion of golf course belonging to the Bali Hai Golf Club. The stadium is being designed as a shared facility and will also host games for the University of Nevada football team. The relocation deal throws into question a plan released late last year from Oakland and Alameda County officials aimed at keeping the team in town. In their efforts, officials advertised a purpose-built $1.15 billion, 55,000-seat stadium for the team. The Raiders currently share Oakland-Alameda Stadium with the Oakland Athletics professional baseball team. The dual-use stadium undergoes a grueling 20-hour long conversion in order to switch between uses. The design is difficult and costly, to say the least. The plan was offered as a carrot to both teams—the Athletics will have the option to develop their own stadium in the scheme—and also came with potential plans or remaking the district around the stadium with improvements to rapid transit connections. Officials in Oakland have not announced what will come of the plan given the finalized move. For the Las Vegas stadium, the assumption is that the design and permitting process will continue to move forward and that—perhaps quickly—a site might be chosen so construction can commence. For the Raiders the arrangement is particularly awkward, as the team will not be able to physically relocate to Las Vegas until the 2020 season at the earliest.