Key Las Vegas Area Transportation Projects Threatened Due to Proposed EPA Ozone Regulations

Press Release
August 11, 2015

I-15 Project Neon, Beltway widening, Monorail extension among projects at risk

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy today released a new report detailing how a proposed new regulation from the Obama Administration could delay or cancel key new transportation projects in the Las Vegas region.

Grinding to A Halt takes a detailed look at the challenges Las Vegas will face in meeting EPA’s proposal to tighten ozone standards to 65-70 parts per billion, and the projects that could be delayed if the region fails to comply.  Under the Clean Air Act, the federal government is authorized to withhold transportation funding and halt permitting for highway and transit projects in regions unable to demonstrate compliance with emissions rules. The deadline for demonstrating conformity with the new rules will be 2018, and the Las Vegas region is among many areas across the country expected to have great difficulty complying.

“EPA’s proposed new ozone standards are so strict that even pristine national parks like the Great Basin and the Grand Canyon won’t be able to comply,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.  “Las Vegas area commuters already are facing some of the toughest traffic in the nation, and now key projects intended to help like Project Neon, the CC-215 Las Vegas Beltway widening, and implementation of bus rapid transit are all being threatened by unreasonable standards that the region will have extreme difficulty meeting.”

Nevada air quality officials have warned that the Las Vegas region is unlikely to be able to meet EPA’s new standards.  The region has seen explosive growth over the last two decades, causing traffic volumes to increase by 157 percent since 1992.   The region has already had difficulty meeting existing EPA ozone standards because of growth and “background” ozone emissions coming from other places.  During the most recent three-year period for which data are available, ozone levels in the region averaged 83 parts per billion—well above EPA’s proposed new standard. 

“While Clark County has avoided transportation penalties to date, it will be very difficult to avoid them in the future if new ozone standards are enacted,” said Dan Byers, senior director of policy for the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. “Adding insult to injury, construction delays resulting from withheld transportation funding will only worsen traffic congestion, thereby increasing ozone-forming emissions.”

The Energy Institute’s analysis shows that ten projects totaling $346 million would risk a cutoff in federal funding and freeze on federal permits and approvals.  In addition, many other projects that have yet to be included in the region’s formal transportation plan but are planned would be at risk, such as $1.4 billion in improvements to address major congestion on CC-215, I-15, I-95 and other highways.  Even the Las Vegas Monorail expansion, which is slated to receive $475 million in funding by FY2020, could be at risk.  To read the Energy Institute’s complete report and see a full list of impacted projects, visit

The mission of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy is to unify policymakers, regulators, business leaders, and the American public behind a common sense energy strategy to help keep America secure, prosperous, and clean. Through policy development, education, and advocacy, the Institute is building support for meaningful action at the local, state, national, and international levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.