by Robert Cruickshank
DesertXpress, the company that proposes to build high speed rail from Victorville to Las Vegas, has a Draft EIS ready on their project, and are scheduling some public meetings this week to discuss it (details below). From the DesertXpress press release:
Operating at speeds of up to 150 mph on exclusive tracks along Interstate 15, DesertXpress trains will make the 180-mile trip between Las Vegas and Victorville, California in an hour and twenty minutes. According to the EIS, DesertXpress is forecasted to carry over 10 million people per year by 2015 and over 16 million people by 2030. Ultimately, the system will have a capacity of more than 60 million people per year....
"The project is estimated to reduce up to 360 million pounds of CO2 emissions in the Interstate 15 corridor by greatly reducing automobile travel and replacing it with energy-efficient mass transportation in one of America's most congested transportation corridors," Rogich said.
They believe they can break ground "early next year", which strikes me as a tad bit ambitious. DesertXpress is also aggressively (and in my opinion correctly) pushing back against the concept of building a maglev train on the LA-LV corridor, citing a study for the SoCal Logistics Rail Authority that suggests maglev's costs are going to be too high to afford:
"Maglev has been a thirty-year study of a system that only operates in one other area in the world, which is Shanghai. And we believe the reason it hasn't been further developed in other parts of the world is that according to the BSL Study, the latest cost estimates by public authorities in Germany and the United States put the cost of construction for a Maglev line in the range of $60 million to $199 million per mile - which would bring the cost of the proposed 260-mile Maglev line to US $16 billion to $52 billion - making it the most costly transportation project in U.S. history. On the other hand, the DesertXpress project is estimated to cost from $3.5 to $4 billion, and high speed rail lines are a proven commodity and are successfully operating all over Europe and other parts of the world," said Rogich.
There will be three public meetings this week on the DesertXpress EIS:
Tonight: Las Vegas
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive
Tomorrow (Wednesday): Barstow
1511 East Main Street
Green Tree Golf Course Club House
14144 Green Tree Boulevard
Of course, ANY Vegas HSR project, no matter the details, is going to run into opposition from Congressional Republicans who like to use the proposal to criticize federal stimulus spending and trains more broadly. But as the Huffington Post reports, that criticism is usually hypocritical:
While the stimulus was being debated in January, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor called a group of reporters into his office to outline the GOP's objections. As we filed in, we walked past a giant poster ridiculing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for allegedly pushing for high-speed rail connecting Disneyland and Las Vegas.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Cantor called that project an example of "waste and pork-barrel spending."
Yet one man's pork is another man's prudent investment in transit -- and sometimes the same man's.
Asked about high-speed rail at a recent local event in Virginia, Cantor was all thumbs up. "If there is one thing that I think all of us here on both sides of the political aisle from all parts of the region agree with, it's that we need to do all we can to promote jobs here in the Richmond area," Cantor said of the high-speed rail.
One can hope that Senator Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party today will provide a 60 vote majority for HSR funding and render moot idiotic claims like Cantor's.