by Tina Quigley, Las Vegas, Nevada
The sprawling Las Vegas Valley is growing once again, welcoming new businesses, residents, and tourists. In fact, by 2025 Clark County’s population is expected to increase by 35 percent to 2.7 million and its annual visitor volume to grow 26 percent to 53.1 million. With this growth comes an increase in new transportation infrastructure, private development, utility and other public works projects. While these projects mean job creation, improved roads, and economic growth, it also means construction zones that slow traffic and frustrate drivers, as commuters, including myself, navigate around orange cones every day.
The increase in these construction projects is due in part to a recovering economy and the start of many Fuel Revenue Indexing (FRI) projects. FRI is a three-year program in Southern Nevada that ties a portion of what the public pays at the pump to inflation. The revenue generated funds roadway construction projects solely in Southern Nevada. FRI will generate approximately $700-800 million to fund 223 regionally and locally significant transportation projects.
Today, the majority of these 223 FRI-funded projects are either complete or under construction. Add those to the various construction projects the valley’s municipalities have undertaken – the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder and Mesquite and Clark County – and it’s easy to understand why the public is frustrated.
As general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), I knew a solution could be found in effectively planning, coordinating and communicating efforts to ease the frustration of motorists who were seeing orange cones pop up seemingly everywhere for months on end.
As it turns out, there wasn’t one solution, but many. Firstly, we created Seeing Orange, a public awareness campaign that initially sought to arm residents with a website and hotline to submit inquiries about road construction projects. After the first several months of the campaign, it was apparent that the public wanted the entities responsible for road construction – whether it’s the RTC, other government agencies, the cities, the county, private developers, or utility companies – to better coordinate their projects and minimize inconveniences from road construction.
The next step to addressing this problem was to repurpose and restructure the RTC’s Utility Coordination Committee into the Regional Project Coordination Committee, a group that analyzes long-term construction projects and plans accordingly. A key component of this step was the development of a new subcommittee, the Cone Management Working Group, comprised of staff-level employees from the various municipalities. The working group consists of 32 members who meet biweekly to discuss current projects, ways to address core concerns and review all inquiries that come in through the Seeing Orange hotline or website.
The Cone Management Working Group already has several success stories. For example, the City of Henderson is currently expanding a major roadway that provides access to tens of thousands of residents in a master-planned community. A local utility company had plans to work in the same area once the project was completed. Due to the Cone Management Working Group, the City of Henderson and the utility company were at the same table and able to coordinate the work, saving the public money and drivers from additional weeks of frustration.
John Peñuelas, the manager of engineering for the RTC, played a key role in the creation of this committee.
“This is the first time anyone has tried to coordinate on this level, and it is really the first step to making sure we are doing everything we can to ensure transparency and coordination between public entities, private developers, and utility companies,” Peñuelas said.
While a website and hotline were a good start, the next evolution in the vision placed Seeing Orange into the hands of motorists. In order to provide drivers with as much information as possible, we knew we needed a mobile application. Rather than create a new traffic app, we partnered with Waze, the free, real-time crowdsourced navigation app powered by the world’s largest community of drivers. Through real-time updates and road detours, Waze determines the best routes for its users. As a result of this partnership, the RTC now provides construction, crash and road closure data to Waze to return one of the most succinct, thorough overviews of current road conditions today.
“Waze is only as strong as the information it receives from its users,” said Paige Fitzgerald, Connected Citizens Program Manager at Waze. “The immense data the RTC contributes to the Waze app, specifically on planned construction projects, is critical to further optimize driving experiences at the hyper local level. Through our partnership, Waze and RTC are empowering drivers through real-time data on changing road conditions and closures, promoting safer roads for all drivers.”
While the RTC is the first Waze partner in Nevada, 70 municipalities all over the world are finding new ways to use the shared information. The RTC’s Freeway Arterial System of Transportation (FAST) stores the data that Waze reports so over time we will have a chronological database of Waze events that shows how a particular road performs as reported by Waze users. This data can help with future roadway planning, traffic signal timing and much more.
The Regional Project Coordination Committee, the Cone Management Working Group, and our partnership with Waze is just the start of what we hope will be a major part of the planning process moving forward; not just here in Southern Nevada, but for other Western states.
- About Waze: Waze is the social navigation pioneer, leveraging mobile technology and a passionate global community to redefine expectations of today’s maps. Waze is home to the world’s largest network of drivers who work together daily to outsmart traffic and save time and money. The app consistently recommends the fastest routes based on real-time driving and data from millions of users. From traffic reroutes to low gas price alerts and relevant offers from favorite brands, Waze is one of the most comprehensive driving companions in the marketplace. To download the free Waze app for iOS or Android, visit http://www.waze.com.
- About the RTC: The RTC is the transit authority, transportation planning organization and regional traffic management agency for Southern Nevada. The RTC’s vision is to provide a safe, convenient and effective regional transportation system that enhances mobility and air quality for citizens and visitors. The RTC encourages residents and visitors to use a variety of transportation choices to help reduce traffic congestion, clean the air and improve the quality of life in Southern Nevada. For more information about the RTC and its major initiatives such as Southern Nevada Strong, Fuel Revenue Indexing and Transportation Investment Business Plan, visit rtcsnv.com.
Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), oversees one of the few agencies in the country that manages public transit, traffic management, roadway design, construction funding, and transportation planning, all under one roof. Tina understands that efficient and effective transportation is a key driver to economic development. She is working to change how residents, employees and visitors travel throughout our community by focusing on connecting the airport, resort corridor and convention center with a mass transit system and enhanced roadways. She also successfully collaborated with government, businesses and the community on the fuel revenue indexing program that is directly funding more than $700 million in roadway projects and leveraging more than a billion dollars in new infrastructure for our community. Tina’s energy, collaborative spirit and proven track record will be valuable assets as the RTC takes on the new role of core administrator of Southern Nevada Strong, the first comprehensive regional plan for our community.
Published in January 2017