Maybe Carson City should have bid for a monorail

OK. So the Carson City bypass is a done deal. By 2010, provided we can still afford gasoline, we'll be able to scoot around Carson City faster than you can say, "Geeze. Where have the past 30 years gone?"

But before I get off this bypass obsession of mine and onto other crusades (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), allow me to mop up a bit.

For the record, Gov. Kenny Guinn is not a bad guy. In fact, he's quite a nice guy who got in the middle of a bypass mess that should have been cleaned up long ago.

Fortunately, the governor is accustomed to cleaning up messes. He made his "bones" in Nevada by stepping in to run the University Nevada-Las Vegas in 1994 after then-basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and then-university president Robert Maxson had pretty much turned the campus into a battlefield.

In his just-released book, titled "The Anointed One," which chronicles Guinn's rise to power, Nevada political pundit Jon Ralston wrote that Guinn accepted only $1 as his salary to put UNLV back on track. "It was typical Guinn," wrote Ralston. "He saw himself as a problem-solver, especially with budgets, and UNLV's was in disarray."

By the time Guinn left UNLV in 1995, according to Ralston, "he had righted the university's financial ship and helped soothe the Las Vegas community, which despite its growth, still had a small-town-like devotion to its college basketball team."

And always the numbers cruncher, Guinn recently reminded Carson City that once the bypass is complete, the city will have responsibility to maintain Carson Street, a role currently assumed by the state.

I bumped into Guinn this past weekend down in Henderson. If you haven't been to Southern Nevada in awhile, Henderson is now the state's second-largest city behind Las Vegas. It displaced Reno some time ago.

Actually, you can't tell where Vegas ends and Henderson begins. It's a lot like Los Angeles, where you never know you've left until you're suddenly in Fresno.

As a matter of fact, my cab driver didn't know where Henderson was and he said he'd been living in Vegas for five years. Fortunately he knew where my hotel was because he had eaten at its buffet once.

The governor said he'd been trying to contact me all day. He'd read our editorial wherein we pointed out that if the governor was waiting for us to apologize for stirring up this bypass issue, he could wait until 2010 or so. Not a nice thing to say to a governor, unless you've been sitting in traffic too long.

Guinn said he didn't say what we said he said, although I had several calls from folks who attended the state Transportation Board meeting who said he did.

Specifically, the governor was quoted as saying Carson City officials and the Carson City media (that would probably be us) owe NDOT an apology. "An apology is in order," Guinn was quoted as saying. "If they won't apologize, I will."

The governor said he wasn't referring to me, but that he was concerned that at least one Carson City official had been rather rude to one of NDOT's officials and that an apology was in order.

I told the governor it was water under the bridge and thought better of reminding him that love means never having to say you're sorry. I heard that line once in a movie.

I also fell short of recommending that we put a diving board on the end of the bridge that will cross Highway 50 East, signaling the end of the first phase of the Carson City bypass. That way, if the second phase never gets finished we could turn the area into an amusement park. It will not be far from the wetlands area anyway, so perhaps we could just let it flood and develop future Olympic divers.

As is the case with most number crunchers, the governor doesn't joke around much, so I didn't share my vision.

During my visit to Southern Nevada, I did read that the monorail linking the MGM Grand hotel-casino with the Sahara hotel-casino was moving right along. It will cost $650 million (twice the cost of the bypass) and be finished in 2004, or six years before the bypass.

Kind of shows what you can get done when private business is financing it. It takes government 30 years to build a bypass, but a couple of casino executives can put up a monorail in four years.

At one point there was a group of business folks in Carson City who proposed to build the bypass themselves. The state must have gotten a little nervous at the prospect, so it never really went far.

And so it seems the elusive bypass may actually come to pass in 10 years or so. Until then, all we can do is stay healthy, pay taxes, avoid Carson Street and enjoy the ride.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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