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New McCarran tower dedicated, increases safety

The new FAA tower at McCarran International Airport is the second tallest in the country. The only one taller is in Atlanta by one foot. 10/18/16 (Sergio Avila | KSNV)

The eyes and ears keeping the air traffic over our valley safe just received a major upgrade.

Senator Harry Reid, FAA, and McCarran International Airport officials dedicated the new control tower at the airport Tuesday afternoon.

It was October 1983 when the old control tower at McCarran opened.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta described how much things have changed since that day.

"Back then this airport had about 140,000 planes that landed and took off here each year. Now this airport serves more than 525,000 annual flights," said Huerta.

Flights that bring in about 45 million passengers to the Las Vegas valley.

The nearly 100 million dollar tower is equipped with the latest technology and a much better vantage point for controllers.

"That's really important to us in Las Vegas because of the peak type of traffic that we have," said Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County Director of Aviation.

During peak times, 16 controllers are working in the tower making sure every takeoff and landing run smoothly.

Reid said this tower did much more for Las Vegas than increase the safety of aviation.

"This facility has created most of the jobs when we needed them the most in southern Nevada. This airport has added thousands of jobs during the time there were jobs no other place," said Reid.

It took five years to construct, in part because of a major construction defect.

Reid also blamed two government shutdowns during construction.

"One reason is the Republicans closed congress more than once that set this back so far," said Reid.

Now complete, it's the second largest tower in the country standing 352 feet.

The FAA moved in at the end of August but Tuesday's ribbon cutting marked the official opening.

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