For over 20 years, boosters have dreamed of and lobbied for a train that could travel from Southern California to Las Vegas at 300 mph.
The proposed magnetic levitation train line linking Las Vegas and Anaheim, Calif. — attacked by critics as a multi-billion dollar pipe dream — has gained new life.
Near the bottom of a news release detailing Gov. Jim Gibbons’ meeting last month with President-elect Barack Obama was the announcement that Gibbons and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had agreed to move ahead with the high-speed train project.
“Arnold and I agreed to jointly work together on the project,” said Gibbons, who is planning to travel to Sacramento to talk with Schwarzenegger about it.
The train, Gibbons argues, should be a candidate for federal economic stimulus money.
The rest of the article goes on to discuss "pork" in the stimulus bill and how infrastructure stimulus should emphasize projects with lasting value. We agree, of course, and HSR is one of the best possible examples of infrastructure that provides both short-term stimulus and long-term economic value.
The question here is, does Harry Reid's maglev from Anaheim to Vegas count toward that goal? Maglev is a notorious form of vaporware on an intercity scale - the cost is enormous and no project to build intercity maglev has gotten off the drawing board. That hasn't stopped Reid from getting $45 million from Congress to study maglev to Vegas, even though a competing firm has a more realistic plan to build conventional steel-wheel HSR from Victorville to Vegas. Reid dismissed the Desert Xpress plan:
Reid has criticized that project because he doesn’t think people will drive from Los Angeles to Victorville and then board a train to Las Vegas.
What Reid apparently doesn't realize is that it's a mere 50 miles from Victorville to the planned HSR station at Palmdale Airport:
So wouldn't it make sense, Senator Reid, Governor Gibbons, and Governor Schwarzenegger, to link a Vegas HSR line to our existing HSR plan - using the Desert Xpress model, merely extended west across the flat Antelope Valley desert from Victorville to the Palmdale Airport station? That would solve the cost issue, provide a direct train connection from LA to Vegas, and even could help logroll both Nevada's and California's HSR needs into a single plan.
I have to confess I've never believed that HSR to Vegas is a particularly high priority for either California or the United States as a whole - there are other corridors that have a greater need for HSR. But if Nevada and their powerful Senator are bent on HSR to Vegas, let's do it the smart way, the right way, instead of wasting millions on a maglev train that will never get built.