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Railway on track to build new depot, run trains to Henderson

By the end of the year, plans are on track for the Nevada Southern Railway to run trains into Henderson.

The new, longer route is part of a multiphase project that will see the Nevada State Railroad Museum build a new museum/visitor center, expand its outdoor displays and add a park that stretches from its current facility near Yucca Street to its new home near the corner of Boulder City Parkway and Buchanan Boulevard.

Randy Hees, museum director, has been working closely with the Boulder City Economic Vitality Commission to help bring their ideas to life.

“I’ve worked on a lot of projects, and this project sells itself,” said Larry Bender of the Economic Vitality Commission, which is working to obtain necessary funding. “Everybody loves it, from the politician to the person on the street.”

Now, many more are aboard after members of City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution supporting relocation of the train depot and the creation of a linear park.

The railroad-themed park will feature playground equipment as well as picnic benches and an outdoor learning area/gathering space. Additionally, it will include a paved road from Yucca Street almost to Buchanan Boulevard, a parking lot for the museum/depot and a bicycle and pedestrian trail that connects to the River Mountain Loop Trail.

Despite the overwhelming support for the project, actually obtaining all the necessary funding and grants is more of a challenge. To complete the project with all the phases and desired amenities will cost about $20 million, Hees and Bender said.

Bender said, however, that the project can be split easily with the track, linear park and road more easily accomplished first and the depot, museum and visitor center waiting for the remainder of the funding.

Boulder City will be responsible for paying for the linear park, road and parking lot, which has a price tag of roughly $4.7 million, while the state will finance the railroad museum and visitor center, which should cost about $4.5 million.

The planned pavilion and open displays should cost roughly $1 million, while an enclosed display building is estimated at $4 million. Track changes are expected to cost another $1 million, through museum volunteers can lay track, Hees said, helping cut down some of the expense.

“Our part, through the Economic Vitality Commission, will be for all the off-site improvements, such as the linear park, so it is not a burden on the city,” said Jill Rowland-Lagan, CEO of the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce.

Grants and donations

She said the costs to the city should be minimal as the majority of the funding will come through grants or private donations.

“If the grants don’t come to fruition, the project may not come to fruition,” she said.

Hees, however, remains optimistic, saying that “at a very minimum we will get the visitor center and linear park.” The state already allocated $469,000 to create construction drawings for the museum and visitor center, and $32,000 has been secured through private pledges.

According to Hees, an architect to create blueprints and site plans for the depot and park has been selected, and it is different than the firm that created renderings of what the visitor center/museum and park should look like. It is expected to take roughly six to eight months to complete the drawings, with no timeline set for when construction could begin.

Once the documents are created, they can be sent out for bids to build the depot/visitors center, Hees said.

A proposal to obtain funding through the state’s tourism bureau, which oversees operations of the museum, is part of this year’s legislative session. Hees said the state is just starting to recover from 16 bad years and that the visitor center has been planned and proposed six times since 1986.

Big boost

The project itself got a major boost with the construction of Interstate 11, which is creating a $1.9 million bridge for the train over the highway.

Rowland-Lagan said they have been working with Henderson officials, and plans now call for the train to travel from the new depot to downtown Henderson, with stops at Van Wagenen Street and the back of the Fiesta Henderson casino. Originally, it was going to travel across the interstate to Nevada State College.

Rowland-Lagan said she would like to see some sort of trolley or transportation system from the depot to downtown Boulder City and perhaps to Hoover Dam. This would be especially good for tourism and help bring visitors in for special events such as Art in the Park, Damboree and Wurstfest, she added.

She said she also sees the longer train ride bringing in greater opportunities for the railway to offer special events such as a wine train or Polar Express.

The new attractions could help offset the projected 34 percent loss in traffic in town expected from the completion of I-11, she said.

“With the tourism and family aspect, business impact, plus use for locals and education, it’s a multifacted project,” she added. “It’s one of the items we think has great potential to bring people back into Boulder City.”

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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