Video Vault | 1990 'Traffic Summit' over Las Vegas
Original story reported by David Riggleman on Feb. 15, 1990. Notes added by Tom Hawley.
LAS VEGAS (My News 3) The summit started bright and early with a bird's eye view. Representatives from all levels of government (1) climbed aboard two National Guard helicopters and got a tour of the traffic, with News 3's Tom Hawley.
Most of those making the trip already know the traffic in the valley is bad. But they wanted to give U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (2) a chance to see it first-hand. There was even a rush-hour accident in the Spaghetti Bowl at I-15 and U.S. 95.
"Well, the view from the helicopter shows traffic conditions are already scary," said Harry Reid, then the Junior Senator from Nevada. "Every major intersection is choked with gridlock."
When the summit started, the Nevadans talked about how bad the traffic was. But Deputy Secretary Chao was not as moved, being a native Californian.
"Well, coming as I do from Los Angeles, I have to say that the traffic is not nearly as bad as some of the communities around," she observed (3).
Chao was invited to the summit because Sen. Richard Bryan has launched a bill (4).
"Only the federal government could get away with that kind of diversion of money," said Bryan. "If somebody in business tried to do that, they'd be indicted and sent to prison."
Chao says the battle over the trust fund promises to be a big one.
"Well, obviously we at the Transportation Department feel it should be used for highways," she allowed. "But I think the reality of the situation nationwide. ...(5) This impacts not only transportation, but all of our... We have a real deficit problem."
"It seems obvious from the traffic summit that Las Vegas is going to have to do more to raise its own road money," said Riggleman, speaking into the camera (6). "That may come in the form of raising user fees, like the gasoline tax, taxes that tourists pay or developer fees. And it also means Las Vegas is going to have to explore other alternatives, like carpooling or staggering work hours to cut down on congestion." (7)
Including Bob Miller, who had recently become Nevada Governor--an office he would hold longer than anyone else.
A few years later, Chao would marry Mitch McConnell, who is now Senate Majority leader, having succeeded Harry Reid.
Chao has a point ... it's hard to impress a Los Angeleno with Las Vegas traffic.
Bryan's bill was aimed at stopping highway funds from being used to plug deficit gaps -- something sought by the administration of George H.W. Bush. The bill did not pass.
Chao was not about to second-guess her boss, Bush 41.
Riggleman was a reporter at News 3 from 1987 to 1995 before eventually becoming Director of Communications for the City of Las Vegas.
- Those local funding solutions were passed by Clark County Voters later that year, making possible the Beltway, the D.I. Superarterial and many other projects.