The Fate of Our Infrastructure

For decades Southern Nevada was the fastest-growing area in our nation. “Build it, and they will come” seemed to be the guiding principle for local elected officials, business leaders, developers, contractors, labor-union officials and many of our local residents, who enjoyed unprecedented prosperity during the boom years.

For those of us who lived here during the ’50s through the ’70s, when there were several local recessions, it came as no real surprise when the real estate bubble finally burst. We must never forget that the laws of gravity apply to economics, and Las Vegas is not exempt.

Surely we know by now that the value of growth and development in our community should be measured by quality and compatibility, not just by quantity. We must plan for steady, moderate growth that is tied to solid economic-development efforts, smart land-use plans and creative infrastructure improvement programs. We must say no to development proposals that do not conform to the land-use master plan and are protested by concerned neighbors. We must insist on proper planning, neighborhood preservation and architectural standards.

We have made great strides in our public infrastructure development. When I proposed the creation of the Regional Flood Control District in the mid-’80s, we had no coordinated action and no dedicated funding to protect us from destructive floods. When I proposed our Master Transportation Plan in 1989, we had a grossly inadequate transportation system and no real funding or plan to improve it.

Since then, we have spent billions in local revenue and additional billions in federal funding to build and improve freeways, a beltway, super arterials, mass-transit systems, pedestrian bridges, detention basins and hundreds of miles of major street lanes and flood channels. There are few communities in the U.S. that can match our aggressive local effort to implement necessary public works projects. For many of our future transportation-improvement projects, we will have to explore public-private partnerships that have toll-road options and integrate the private monorail system with our public mass-transit systems.

To achieve any of this, there must be creative planning and a vision for our future. In the Book of Proverbs of the Old Testament we are warned, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

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