Upgrades for Las Vegas's McCarran Airport Tram

Clark County Aviation Director Randall Walker will go before the Board of Commissioners today requesting authorization to negotiate a contract with Bombardier Transportation USA to modernize the trams for the C and D gates at McCarran International Airport.

Department of Aviation officials evaluated the condition of the automated transit system and concluded that modernization of the system is warranted, Walker said. Project cost is estimated at $40 million.

Work will start with the C-gate tram, installed in 1985. The system has outlived its 20-year life cycle design and has surpassed 1 million miles of service.

The D-gate tram has only been operating since 1998, but has already reached 900,000 miles due to increased service runs to keep up with growing passenger loads at McCarran. It travels 1.5 miles each trip, compared with a half-mile for the C-gate tram.

McCarran allocated about $100 million for the tram system, runway upgrades, baggage claim and ticketing expansion and integration of the airport information system when the D gates opened in 1998.

The upgrade will bring the trams up to date with the latest control system technology and new cars, providing an "operational redundancy capability" that does not currently exist, Walker said.

"The trams have been very efficient. They've run very well," he said. "Their reliability is very good, but as they get older, it takes more effort and more maintenance to keep them running."

Redundancy capability was unavailable in the control system software for the C-gate tram in 1985, Walker said.

Bombardier Transportation, based in Ontario, Canada, with U.S. headquarters in Pittsburgh, has been the sole supplier of automated transit systems at McCarran. The company will also install an automated transit system connecting Terminal 3 to the D gates.

"We want to get all three systems at the same level as far as the actual cars themselves and, of course, the whole control and software system," Walker said. "Let's make it as efficient as possible."

Bombardier also built and operates the $650 million Las Vegas Monorail, which runs about four miles on the east side of the Strip from Sahara to the MGM Grand. The monorail began operating in mid-2004, but was suspended from September through December that year after incurring mechanical problems. Ridership has fallen short of the projected 20 million people a year on the monorail.

Walker said the airport tram system, originally designed by General Electric Co., is completely different than the monorail system.

"We're going to get the same system that's been proven and reliable and used in airports all over the world," he said.

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