Construction set to begin on transportation center

RTC General Manager Tina Quigley makes a few remarks at the groundbreaking event for RTC’s new UNLV Transit Center Thursday April, 4 2013.

RTC's UNLV Transit Center Groundbreaking Event

UNLV and RTC celebrated the groundbreaking for the new UNLV Transit Center Thursday April, 4 2013. Launch slideshow »

Dignitaries and transportation planners say a new $3.45 million UNLV Transit Center is a slam dunk.

In a March Madness-themed kickoff to the center’s construction today, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and UNLV President Neal Smatresk said the transit center will be key to future growth.

“Southern Nevada needs a modern infrastructure and transit system that enables long-term growth,” Reid said in prepared remarks for the groundbreaking ceremony. “This new project will become a major hub that will support UNLV students and staff and those in the surrounding community.”

Regional Transportation Commission officials say the Centennial Express line will serve the center and take passengers directly to the downtown Las Vegas Bonneville Transit Center, where they’ll be able to get connections to any stop in the valley.

The Centennial Express currently serves the UNLV campus with six-stop service from the Centennial Hills Transit Center in northwest Las Vegas that runs more than 20 times a day on weekdays from about 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., ending at a street stop at Maryland and Del Mar Drive.

The new transit center, scheduled to open in August, will be a 6,460-square-foot, open-air facility with bicycle racks and an outdoor waiting area. It’s across the street from Greenspun Hall and within walking distance of UNLV’s Student Union building, the Thomas & Mack Center and the Cox Pavilion.

“It is important as our university plans for its next decade of growth that we look for alternative ways for students, faculty, staff and visitors to access our campus,” Smatresk said. “This transit center is good for commuting students and staff but also opens up new opportunities for visitors to campus cultural and athletic events.”

The transit center will cut into a parking lot on the south end of the campus, but RTC General Manager Tina Quigley said if the center is used properly, it should eliminate some of UNLV’s parking problems.

“This project epitomizes the RTC’s commitment to community partnerships,” Quigley said. “Having the ability to work with UNLV on a project that will encourage the use of public transit to and from the campus and, hopefully, alleviate some of the area’s parking needs is something we are incredibly passionate about at the RTC.”

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus also attended the event.

The project is mostly funded with federal transportation dollars. A Federal Transit Administration Bus and Bus Facilities Livability Initiative Grant is paying 80 percent of the cost, with the remaining 20 percent matched by the RTC.

While RTC officials say the transit center is a tie-in to the university’s UNLV Now project — a proposed on-campus football stadium — it’s also likely to be a centerpiece in the RTC’s future Maryland Parkway transportation corridor, which the agency began studying late last year.

As a direct route between downtown Las Vegas and McCarran International Airport, Maryland Parkway is being reviewed by transportation planners as a key transit corridor in the future with a number of development options being studied.