Located in the Ivanpah Valley

Vegas officials eye second airport as Harry Reid runs out of space, facility could be built by 2037

Reading time 2:24 min

Las Vegas officials are eyeing a second airport as Harry Reid International runs out of space and the gambling hub keeps tumbling traffic records. Planning has resumed for a long-discussed site 30 miles from Vegas as the 76-year-old airport grapples with increased tourism, private jets and landlocked location.

Reid, the seventh-busiest airport in North America, is coming off successive years of record-setting passenger totals. However, the facility, which last completed a major expansion in 2012, can't expand beyond its current configuration of four runways and two large terminals, prompting the renewal of discussions surrounding the issue.

“We’re going to start getting delays probably by the end of this decade,” Clark County Department of Aviation Director Rosemary Vassiliaadis said, as reported by The Nevada Independent. She said with higher capacity airplanes now being used by the major air carriers, airports are now measuring capacity problems in terms of how long it takes to clear jets of passengers and prepare the plane for the next flight.

One of the Clark County Department of Aviation’s responses to the issue is to squeeze as much as possible out of the airport’s existing footprint. But building a new airport in the next 13 years in the Ivanpah Valley just north of Primm and 30 miles south of Reid is also on the horizon.

The Ivanpah project — now called the Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport — was first envisioned 24 years ago through federal legislation that allowed for the sale of 6,500 acres of federally owned land in the Ivanpah Valley to Clark County for a future airport. Momentum is building again with the passage of SB19 by the Nevada Legislature last year, which allowed Clark County to create a township for Ivanpah, a critical step in the future airport’s development.

Moreover, a $1 million environmental impact statement was approved by the Clark County Commission last week. It marks the initial study to consider how developing a one-terminal, two-runway facility for commercial airlines, cargo carriers or both would ultimately affect a 17-mile area along Interstate 15 between Jean and Primm.

The most recent timeline has the airport pegged for completion in 2037. “There is no doubt in our minds that the need is now [for the Ivanpah Airport],” Vassiliadis said during a media briefing on the project in early April. “We have a responsibility not to become a constraint to the continuing evolution of [Las Vegas].” 

In the meantime, airport officials are working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to exhaust all options at Reid, seeking to improve runway use and air traffic control procedures. Reid officials are also exploring additional taxiway turnoffs to improve efficiency and ways to reduce congestion at airline gates.

Part of the effort focuses on unused land along the airport’s northeast side. Some of the land is currently used for parking for airline passengers and airport employees. Vassiliadis also said a study is being commissioned on current airport operations, including gauging the habits of how locals get to and from the airport.

The time to act is now, officials believe. Vassiliadis said the airport’s passenger volume isn’t slowing. Allegiant Stadium and the Sphere, coupled with major sports and entertainment events, are bringing more visitors than ever through the facility. 

In a legislative presentation in March 2023, the aviation department said “unconstrained demand” on Reid Airport would begin exceeding its runway capacity, which would increase steadily over time to up to 2 million enplaned passengers per hour by 2037. 

Building a new airport at Ivanpah could likely be the largest single public works project in Nevada history, with construction costs estimated to be between $6 billion and $14 billion, according to The Nevada Independent.

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