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Presidential visits no small task for state officials

Updated September 25, 2023 - 10:13 am

It’s no small task for officials in the Silver State when a U.S. president or another dignitary visits Nevada.

Ensuring the safety of a dignitary once the person arrives at the airport and then getting the dignitary and their entourage to the destination means setting up a motorcade. That includes a mix of state, local and federal law enforcement officials.

With next year an election year, Nevada Department of Transportation Director Tracy Larkin Thomason this month highlighted the effort it takes to accommodate a president’s needs during a visit.

Using President Joe Biden’s August trip to Lake Tahoe as an example, Thomason noted the resources that need to be assembled to make such a visit possible.

“He came in the Reno airport and went up to stay up at South Lake Tahoe then he went back over to the airport to fly to Hawaii and back from Hawaii to the airport,” Thomason said at the Sept 11 NDOT Board meeting. “So, anyway, four trips.”

With the back-and-forth nature of Biden’s trip, handling that required 60-75 people to block roads as the president’s motorcade traveled in and around Northern Nevada.

“When we looked at it we spent over 1,700 hours in staff and 150 hours of planning,” Thomason said. “It takes a lot of resources just to manage that.”

Few dignitary visits usually involve the massive amount of hours that President Biden’s Lake Tahoe visit did, because visits from other dignitaries don’t usually involve them coming and going multiple times over a short period of time.

Presidential visits to Las Vegas usually involve some portion of the motorcade traveling on the 215 Beltway, Interstate 15, U.S. Highway 95 and sometimes the Strip. When that occurs, traffic is completely blocked off to general traffic, which creates headaches for drivers. Those occurrences usually lead Las Vegas Valley residents who aren’t aware of such visits turning to social media to ask what is going on as they’re stuck in standstill traffic.

When Donald Trump was president, he would usually stay at his namesake hotel, Trump International. His traveling to and from the hotel located just off Las Vegas Boulevard, just west of Wynn and Encore, would lead to the Strip being shut to traffic as his motorcade made its way to the property.

With Nevada being a battleground state, it is expected many presidential candidates will visit the Silver State leading up to the presidential election in November 2024.

“Because next year is a presidential election year, we have a lot of people visiting Las Vegas, Reno and sometimes Elko,” Thomason said.

NDOT didn’t have a price for what it takes to carry out the work needed to accommodate dignitary visits, but they did note the cost is borne by the department and the amount is dependent on the length and schedule of the trip.

“NDOT does not get reimbursed by the federal government for costs associated with official visits by the President of the United States,” NDOT spokesman Justin Hopkins said. “However, the department works very closely with our law enforcement partners to minimize the use of state resources during visits by the president and other dignitaries.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on X. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.

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