Sun editorial:

Underground option at Tropicana, Swenson worth further exploration


This rendering shows a proposed elevated expressway over the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Swenson Street that would alleviate traffic between McCarran International Airport and the Strip.

UNLV and Clark County appear to be moving in the right direction on reconfiguring the jam-packed intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Swenson Street/Paradise Road.

At a county commission meeting last week, officials from the university and county revealed they were working on a proposal to move traffic under the intersection as an alternative to the original plan of building an elevated roadway.

That’s the way to go. The elevated roadway option, which unfortunately is still on the table, is a horrible idea that would cause all sorts of problems.

One, elevated roadways are magnets for litter, graffiti, serious crimes and homeless camps. That’s been proven over and over in communities worldwide. Two, the project would drive down nearby property values. Three, it would add an eyesore to one of the main entryways to campus.

Late last year, UNLV released a study estimating that the elevated roadway would cause at least $11.5 million in negative economic impact for the university by reducing the value of its land holdings and diminishing its signage, branding and digital advertising.

So it’s a relief that campus and county officials are at the drawing table on the below-ground option. University officials say that although that alternative is not perfect, it’s promising and they’re more than willing to work with the county to iron out the problems.

Make no mistake, the intersection desperately needs to be reconfigured. It’s become a major clogging point along one of the main routes carrying tourists and conventiongoers from McCarran International Airport to the Strip, so failing to deal with it will diminish our visitor experience while also prolonging traffic problems for locals.

County officials say delay times could more than double by 2040 if something isn’t done.

The underground alternative is expensive, no question. At an estimated $150 million, it’s nearly twice the cost of the elevated roadway ($78 million). But considering that overpasses and flyover-type intersections are so detrimental and ineffective that they’ve been demolished in numerous cities, spending $78 million on one is a terrible investment.

Better to spend more and get a more efficient and more aesthetically pleasing intersection.

UNLV and the county got off to a rocky start on the project, with the university getting blindsided and the Nevada Board of Regents publicly criticizing the county over it. Commissioner Larry Brown struck back at last week’s meeting, saying the regents and UNLV had been unfair in their criticism.

Duly noted. But now that the sides have aired their gripes, it’s time to move on and do what’s right for Las Vegas: Craft a solid plan for the underground reconfiguration, approve and get it built.