LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Here in Las Vegas, transportation is looking toward the future.
We're moving away from more conventional modes of travel to more innovative ways to get around, like the Vegas Loop, making transportation safer and helping connect people from all around the valley.
Commissioner Michael Naft says transportation has become somewhat of a passion project for him as the state of Nevada continues to grow.
"I think this is an incredible time here for Southern Nevada. If you are involved in innovative transportation, this is the place to be, Clark County," Naft said.
With population growth, comes infrastructure, and with Las Vegas serving as one of the fastest-growing cities, officials in Southern Nevada were tasked with how they can move people faster, safer, and more efficiently.
"You've got everything from autonomous testing going on with Halo and autonomous rental cars. You've got the Vegas Loop project that we just approved recently, moving thousands and thousands of people underground in an efficient way and in a safe way," Naft said.
In a time when it seemed like the entire world shut down, Las Vegas continued to work on its growing infrastructure.
“I think one of the most important things that Governor Sisolak did during the worst days of the pandemic was to make sure that our construction crews were able to continue working in a safe way," Naft said. "Because of that, we have a brand new NFL stadium that we otherwise wouldn't have had, we have The Boring Company able to successfully complete three stations at the Las Vegas Convention Center. We have so many more projects. Frankly, some of which would have been killed had they had to stop dead in their tracks and restart later."
The traffic woes on some of our major arteries like Interstate 15, which is part of the freight system, alerted state officials to bottlenecks like the one at the Nevada/California state line. This can impact our access to our goods, which is vital to our state economy.
“To get to the routes of the rest of the country, it has to pass through I-15 and Southern Nevada,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said, in a previous interview with 13 Action News about the struggling supply chain.
Reducing those freight choke points is top of mind for officials like Kristina Swallow, the director of the Nevada Department of Transportation.
"We're currently updating our freight plan, and that freight plan is going to look at where the bottlenecks are on our corridors. So, what do we need to do to address those?" Swallow said. "Within the limits of the state, are there things that we can do? We're also going to look at things like truck parking."
The road to innovation in the Las Vegas valley has been a long one, just take a look around at the construction.
Currently, there are more than 400 statewide construction projects in Nevada with more than a hundred of those focused right here in Las Vegas.
America’s population is expected to grow substantially by 2045, especially here in the West, and transportation officials fear that the existing infrastructure may not be able to accommodate the growth.
"It's the reason why so much of what we've talked about for decades and decades is now finally coming to fruition," Naft said.
"They actually anticipate between now and 2030, an increase in population here in Southern Nevada — 400,000 people — bringing us to over 2.6 million people in Clark County," Swallow said. "So we're very aware of those estimations and we're working with them to figure out what that looks like on our transportation system. I think what's key here though, is we as a community and as a state need to really pivot on how we meet those growth needs."
So, how do we move forward faster, safer, and more efficiently?
Lori Nelson-Kraft with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority says Vegas is currently at the forefront of transportation technology.
"It takes so many great partnerships and entities throughout the valley, like NDOT, the RTC, and then private enterprises, like The Boring Company to all come together and help to put a solution in place," Nelson-Kraft said.
To combat congestion, experts are looking below ground where we are already seeing a growing network of underground transportation with the LVCVA Convention Center Loop.
"We will be the first in the country to be able to have transportation solutions underground that are express and direct point-to-point systems. Nowhere else, only Vegas has that," Nelson-Kraft said.
What started as a big idea has branched into something bigger than some might have imagined for Southern Nevada.
The LVCVA says the Convention Center Loop was a precursor to the future of transportation with the Vegas Loop.
During the SEMA conference, The LVCVA was able to transport more passengers than ever before: 96,000 people.
“There is no stop-and-go, there is no picking up passengers and dropping them off, and we believe this is the future of transportation in Southern Nevada," Nelson-Kraft said.
As the population grows, Clark County is looking at ways to cut down on emissions by having fewer cars on the road and encouraging more people to take other means of transportation.
The end result is clear: Cleaner air and safer streets.