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Las Vegas Considers Multibillion-Dollar Transportation Plan

A proposed Las Vegas light-rail line would run along the Strip. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

Our weekly “New Starts” column of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Las Vegas Takes a Stab at Comprehensive Transit Planning
What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but getting around Las Vegas is becoming an issue that will involve many players both within and outside America’s premiere adult playground. Transportation and tourism officials in Southern Nevada are making an attempt to handle continued growth in both visitors and residents over the next 30 years with the unveiling of an ambitious, multibillion-dollar transportation plan that includes a light-rail component.

A Las Vegas Sun report on the Regional Transportation Commission’s “Transportation Investment Business Plan” notes that it aims to channel anticipated growth in intra-metropolitan travel by both residents and visitors, to build a base for a more diversified regional economy and to keep pace with other metropolitan regions that have made major investments in local transportation.

The plan, which was presented to the media at a Dec. 7 news conference, envisions light rail connecting downtown Las Vegas with McCarran International Airport via the fabled “Strip” along Las Vegas Boulevard, an extension of the city’s monorail to the Mandalay Bay casino with an additional stop inserted at the Sands Convention Center, high-capacity transit on Maryland Parkway, improved pedestrian facilities on the Strip, and other improvements to area roads and highways. The price tag is equally impressive: $7 billion to $12 billion, and that’s before factoring in the cost of actually building and operating the light-rail line. That adds anywhere from $2 billion to $12 billion to the total, depending on how and where the line is built. And funding for the plan minus that component is not yet fully assured: The RTC notes that a gap of $3.7 billion to $6 billion needs to be covered to bring about everything else the plan envisions.

Moscow Gives Go-Ahead to Two New Tram Lines
Railway Gazette International reports that the Moscow city government greenlighted the start of planning for two new tram routes on the city’s south side on Dec. 8.

A tram rolls through a snowstorm in Moscow. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The first line to get underway will be an extension of the first of a planned five “fast tram” routes for the city. This route, which was approved in 2014, runs 8.3 km (5.2 miles) from Krasnogo Mayaka to Biryulyovo, with 2.1 km (1.3 miles) on an elevated structure; construction on the 10-station line will begin next year. The extension will take the line another 5.2 km (3.23 miles) beyond Biryulyovo to Zagorye and add eight more stations and 700 m (0.43 miles) of elevated structure. The “fast tram” lines will operate on exclusive rights-of-way that will allow for operating speeds of 25-30 km/h (15.5 to 18.6 mph), with 30-meter (98.4-foot) trams running at 4-to-5-minute intervals for a capacity of 5,500 passengers per hour.

The second line will be a circular route through the Novomoskovsky district that will serve a new residential development being built at Kommunarka. The 11.7-km (7.3-mile) line will have 16 stops and will not be connected to any other part of the city’s tram network. No timeline for its construction has been set yet, as its opening will depend on both how fast the residential development proceeds and the completion of a metro extension to the district, which is expected to open in 2020.

Chinese to Build LRT Network in Ugandan Capital
China’s push to develop African infrastructure continues apace with the announcement of an agreement with the Ugandan government that will produce the second light-rail transit network in sub-Saharan Africa.

Traffic in Kampala, Uganda (Photo by Kent MacElwee on Flickr)

According to an article in the International Railway Journal, the Chinese and Ugandan governments have signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation to build an LRT system for the capital city of Kampala.

The city’s metropolitan master plan envisions a 240-km (149.1-mile) system of light-rail lines connecting central Kampala with Entebbe, Nsangi, Wakiso and other surrounding communities. The memorandum covers the first phase of this network, a 35-km (21.7-mile) route budgeted at 1.5 trillion Ugandan shillings ($440 million U.S.).

The move to build an LRT network comes on the heels of the launch of an experimental commuter rail service in Kampala. The line, which opened Dec. 7, is a joint venture of Uganda Railways, the Kampala Capital City Authority and operator Rift Valley Railways that connects Kampala and Namanve. The line will operate for at least a year.

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