The transportation bill was signed by President Bush last week and it included $45 million for Sen. Harry Reid's maglev project to link Vegas to Anaheim:
Derided by critics as pie in the sky, the train would use magnetic levitation technology to carry passengers from Disneyland to Las Vegas in well under two hours, traveling at speeds of up to 300 mph. It would be the first MagLev system in the U.S.
The money is the largest cash infusion in the project's nearly 20-year history. It will pay for environmental studies for the first leg of the project.
It doesn't make much sense for the US government to be proceeding with maglev studies. It's an extremely expensive and untested technology that isn't even necessary to provide high speed rail service on that corridor - off the shelf technology can accomplish speeds that would cut the drive from SoCal to Vegas in half (and cut it by 3/4 on the busy weekends).
Even a revival of Amtrak's Desert Wind train would be sensible. It was killed in 1997 due to "low ridership" during the cheap oil era but as Trains4America points out that rationale might not hold today.
Still, at least Reid took the lead in securing federal money for a Nevada-California HSR project, even if we here at the HSR blog believe it would be wiser to link a non-maglev HSR line to the California project at either Mojave or Palmdale Airport. Why haven't California's powerful senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, worked to provide similar federal funding for our project? Even $45 million for studies would not only help the CHSRA's work, but would be a signal that the Congress really will help pay for the cost of our HSR line. That would ease the "financial risk" concerns the State Senate and others have pointed out. Senators Boxer and Feinstein could also play a key role in brokering an agreement between Union Pacific and the CHSRA on ROW.
Once again political leadership is absent, seemingly blind to the crisis of high energy costs and unserious about providing affordable, sustainable alternatives.