Light rail in Las Vegas is getting closer to reality as lawmakers consider a bill that would let communities pursue funding options for these types of projects.
Senate Bill 149 passed its first floor vote Monday and is now in the Assembly. Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, sponsored the legislation and said Tuesday that the bill’s passage would lay the groundwork for transportation officials in Washoe and Clark counties to pursue construction, operation and maintenance of high-capacity transit systems, such as a light rail line.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada has spent two years laying out plans for a future light rail between McCarran International Airport and the Las Vegas Strip. Manendo said the bill authorizes the commission to enter into agreements with local governments for development and shared expenses of these projects.
“So the city of Las Vegas, Henderson, Clark County, they can all come to the table and then, of course, they would have the ability to go to the taxpayers if they wanted to,” he said.
The bill passed the Senate with one opposing vote. Manendo said it’s bipartisan legislation with support in both the Assembly and the Senate, and he anticipates the bill will get a hearing.
“We know that there is definitely a need for it — people are asking for this,” he said. “To me it’s just a win-win.”
He said a rail project in Las Vegas would bring jobs during construction, improve infrastructure and keep more cars off the road. Manendo pointed to a light rail constructed in Denver and said he saw improved business and real estate along the line.
Communities would need to find the funding for these multibillion-dollar projects from private sources, federal funds or grants, and voter-approved taxes.
Manendo said Denver’s light rail project was planned in time to pursue and receive federal funds when they became available, and Southern Nevada could benefit from the same preparation.
The senator said he envisions a line that encompasses McCarran, UNLV and, in the other direction, Henderson, among other locations.
It’s unclear when the bill will be put on a committee agenda. Manendo, a member of an interim committee that explored the legislation as a priority for this session, said a diverse group of officials supported the measure when it came up for a Senate committee hearing.
He said he plans to put together a similar, comprehensive presentation for the Assembly’s transportation committee members.
The bill has received a broad range of support from the northern and southern parts of the state, including leaders in business and transportation.