Mayor Roger Tobler said the City Council wants to minimize the negative effect a bypass could have on business by starting a discussion now on what could be done lure visitors to Boulder City once the Interstate 11 loop opens.
City Manager Dave Fraser and Chamber of Commerce CEO Jill Rowland-Lagan have been working to organize a group of local business owners this month to discuss with Tobler ideas on luring visitors once the loop opens, which could be as early as 2017.
Tobler said the city and businesses “need to identify who’s really stopping” in town and how to “prevent them from taking the bypass” once it opens.
One idea by Tobler, which is shared by Rowland-Lagan, is to hire consultants to study visitor traffic into Boulder City: How many people visit the town as a destination or come upon it on the way through on U.S. Highway 93?
What is the correlation between visitors to Lake Mead, which saw 894,000 visitors come through the Boulder Beach entrance in the first six months of the year, and visitors to Boulder City?
How many people who visit the antique shops and restaurants downtown make their decision to visit the Buchanan Boulevard/Nevada Highway intersection?
“A study could help with two things,” Tobler said. “First, what makes up the element of our customer base. Second, how do we, as a council, help lessen that impact.”
Beth Walker, owner of Grandma Daisy’s Candy and Ice Cream Parlor on Nevada Way, said in the July 18 edition of the Boulder City Review that the loop opening could cut her business 30 to 40 percent in sales. A similar number was given by Tony’s Pizza owner John Kapospa.
Tobler said the “30 to 40 percent” number has been quoted by business owners ever since talk of a bypass started in earnest more than a decade ago.
The study is needed for a better grasp of what the effect may be, Tobler said.
“The number could be not as bad, or it could be worse,” said Tobler, adding that determining a true number will give everyone a better framework to work from in dealing with future tourism plans.
Tobler said the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada will likely be approached to help pay for the consultants and study. However, if they don’t fund a study, the city will pay for part or all, likely from the city’s grant program or the Redevelopment Agency fund.
The commission told the City Council on July 9 a fuel-tax bill passed in the state Legislature would fund the majority of second phase construction of the I-11 loop, estimated to cost nearly $280 million. That fuel-tax increase, if approved by the Clark County Commission in September, would enable the transportation commission to raise $700 million to $800 million in bonds to fund various road projects, including the loop.
Clark County commissioners were introduced to the fuel-tax increase proposal during their regular meeting July 16. Transportation officials said the cost to the average driver would be $16.35 the first year, or 3 cents per gallon, jumping to $51.95 a year in the third year, or 9 cents per gallon.
County commissioners have until Oct. 1 to approve the measure, which will require five of the seven commissioners’ approval. The tax would start in January if approved.
The county’s existing fuel tax is 9 cents, but each gallon has 52.2 cents of taxes in fees in each gallon, including county, state and federal taxes.
If the increase passes and construction on the loop starts next year, Tobler said statistics provided through a study will enhance the city’s and business’s negotiating power with the transportation commission and the Nevada Transportation Department in various planning discussions, such as trying to get the loop identified as a “truck route,” and placing signage well ahead of the loop entrance touting U.S. 93 as a visitor’s route to town, Lake Mead and Hoover Dam.
Despite the concerns, Tobler said the route around town is needed for the “long-term health” of the citizens of Boulder City as commercial traffic increases between Phoenix and Las Vegas.
“We don’t want to regret no being proactive on this,” said Tobler, who has sat on the transportation commission board for 10 years. “We don’t want to wait until we feel the pain.”
Tobler wants people to remember the traffic problems that hit the city when the bypass bridge opened in 2010.
“Doing nothing is not an option for us,” he said. “We’ll be hating life in five years if we do nothing.”