ISTEA Reauthorization
March 28, 1997

I am Glen Schaeffer. I am the President of Circus Circus Enterprises and the Chairman of the Nevada Resort Association, which is the gaming industry's premiere trade group here in the State. I must confess at the outset that Circus has been a stimulus for some of this growth in Nevada. We are, as a company, the largest private employer in the State of Nevada with about 20,000 employees, and that's a figure that has tripled in the last 10 years.

Gaming is a robust industry. In 1997 Las Vegas will be the leading destination in the world for entertainment travel. By the year 2000, we will attract 40 million visitors annually to Las Vegas. The 10 largest hotels in the world are within four miles of each other on the Las Vegas Strip. The majority of those hotels have been built within the last six years. In two more years that number will be 13, and we'll have the 13 largest hotels in the world, expected to operate about 100 percent occupancy rate. The majority of new jobs in the State is created by the gaming industry, and the majority of taxes paid by this industry, as well.

As you may be aware, Nevada has been one of the leaders in per capita income growth in the 1990s.

My purpose here today is to present one of the critical transportation needs in the Nevada. We do have many urgent needs resulting from the tremendous growth in the State, many of which have been enumerated by other panelists. But from a commercial standpoint, we have in fact a regional issue and a regional transportation problem. Our greatest concern is for the Interstate 15 Nevada, California and Arizona Economic Lifeline Corridor project. The California Congressman Jerry Lewis has done outstanding work to help us try to solve what is the chief bottleneck between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which is a 27-mile stretch of Interstate 15 between Barstow and Victorville. This is a critical bottleneck not only to us and the tourism industry, but for those in the trucking industry who move goods interstate. This project received $47.8 million for the 1991 ISTEA, and that was for improvement to the I-15 Interstate 40 interchange and a limited amount of widening of I-15 in the immediate vicinity.

Yet, construction is only now getting underway on this important element, which will provide for greatly enhanced flow of services and goods in our economic region.

It is imperative that I-15 be widened between Barstow and Victorville. The proposal is to widen this segment from four lanes to six at a cost of approximately $130 million. We are already far behind the curve. Travel demand through the I-15 corridor continues to grow at an astounding rate. The current number of cars is about 30,000 per day and it is expected that 70,000 cars per day will travel on I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas by the year 2015.

I can tell you that last year 10 million tourists were caught in this bottleneck. It is not uncommon on a weekend or peak holiday to find that a four-hour commute is lengthened into an eight or 10-hour commute. It is also the case that a high percentage of this traffic is from heavy trucks.

The traffic flow along this segment of I-15 is currently measured at a service level of D, which is indicative of heavy congestion. From 1990 to 1995 accident rates increased 31 percent on this segment, including a 55 percent increase in fatalities. To worsen matters, the trucking industry has a current proposal to lift truck size and weight for these currently embodied in ISTEA, which would allow triple trailer trucks to operate along Interstate 15. This will greatly aggravate the safety and congestion problems, and will negate any improved capacity that the widening of I-15 would provide.

In summary, we must protect the substantial commitment of Federal funds, as well as the local and private contributions for the I-15 and I-40 interchange improvement.