Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is Vegas HSR Out of the Obama HSR Stimulus Derby?

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

When President Obama announced his HSR Strategic Plan last week, the USDOT report that accompanied the announcement included this map of HSR corridors, based on the 2001 map:



One route you don't see on that map is LA to Las Vegas. Does that mean the project, which right-wingers tried to generate controversy around back in February, is ineligible for the HSR stimulus money? That's the topic examined in an article in the Barstow Desert Dispatch:

The Obama administration’s strategic plan for spending the $8 billion in stimulus funding allotted to high-speed rail projects makes no mention of a proposed rail line from Anaheim to Las Vegas that would stop in Barstow.

Project proponents are still hopeful that some of the funds may come their way.

The plan released Thursday by President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood lists 10 designated high-speed rail corridors where projects are eligible to receive funding, none of which include the Anaheim to Las Vegas route.

So does this mean that the map shown above really will determine HSR funding priorities? Well...maybe not:

Lori Irving, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Department of Transportation, said projects that are not located in the existing corridors may still be eligible to compete for some of the stimulus funds.

And the backers of the maglev train are optimistic:

Bruce Aguilera, chair of the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission, which is tasked with moving the Anaheim to Las Vegas train project forward, stated via email that the project proponents still plan to file a request for stimulus funds and expect to be eligible.

“We have a plan and (are) moving fast to have the first leg built during the president’s first term,” Aguilera wrote.

Of course, unless they suddenly abandoned the maglev plan in favor of Desert Xpress and are planning to break ground this afternoon, I'm having a hard time seeing how they'll have the first leg built by the end of 2012.

I wouldn't be surprised if the LA-Vegas corridor got some amount of startup funds, to complete environmental design work - perhaps as much as $100 million or more (but certainly no more than $500 million). But with so many other corridors also looking for funds, with a much more developed and realistic plan - and sorry folks, maglev on this scale really is gadgetbahn - I am hard pressed to see how Vegas HSR is going to get very much out of the USDOT process.

The more I look at this, the more I think that if Vegas HSR is going to happen, the state of Nevada is going to have to take the lead in stepping up to fund a big chunk of it. If Obama is somehow able to create a stable funding source for HSR then that could put Vegas HSR in the pipeline - but it could also take 20 more years to bring it to fruition. If Vegas interests (that would be the casinos) want it to happen sooner, they'll need Nevada to help accelerate the timeline.

That will eventually raise the issue of how much California wants to spend on Vegas HSR. In the 1980s and 1990s there was a long standoff between Caltrans and NDOT over widening Interstate 15 between Barstow and the state line. California did not want to spend money on that project which benefits an out-of-state interest, especially with so many other road projects around the state clamoring for money. Eventually NDOT agreed to help pay and the widening projects were undertaken.

With Vegas HSR, Nevada and the feds could reasonably argue that California should put up more of the money since the route would serve California residents for in-state trips (especially if they use a Cajon Pass routing - Victor Valley residents would have a way to commute to and from jobs in the LA Basin). I'm not sure that's a high priority HSR corridor for this state, and I would be wary at this time of committing California to funding Vegas HSR. Ideally we could revisit the matter around 2020. But Vegas' timeline is much more aggressive, and I am betting we'll see Nevada leaders pushing California for financial commitments much sooner.

Something to keep in mind.

44 comments:

jim said...

If California taxpayers find out they are paying for Nevada's amusement park ride it'll take a bout 5 minutes to nix the project.

klugo said...

Hear, hear (@jim)! Las Vegas is a ponzi town. What do they have? Casinos, sunshine but no water. Without essential resources or a significant non-casino economy to fuel their growth, that place will go down like Detroit.

In the end, it [Vegas HSR] really is not a priority. For the love of HSR it should be killed -- maglev in any case and the DesertXPress or other HSR too unless Nevada or private investors come up with the money. It has no federal merit. Look at the TransportPolitic plan. It has the lowest score of them all.

Better to get some passenger service reinstated on the existing tracks or electrify them.

HR said...

I'm all for HSR everywhere its needed - but California needs to focused on CALIFORNIA right now. It was an uphill battle to get this far with Prop 1A with so many people rolling their eyes lamenting it'd never happen (and it passed, and now it may just get built!).

If you add something that goes OUT of state to a place notorious for gambling and that even asked for its own bailout, that favors a museum dedicated to the "mob" rather than art and cultural interests, and doesn't have a well thought out plan in the first place, it'd just be an obstacle and a leech. Californians want something that gets them around fast to San Diego, Orange County, Irvine, Sacramento, and San Francisco (and of course, Los Angeles). Not to a signal destination like Las Vegas. That's not the goal here.

Focus in-state first, and if Nevada really wants it, it can front up the first two thirds of the money for the project now. Then we can talk.

Rafael said...

Unfortunately, there is some need to parse the legalese here. I'm not a lawyer, so the following is just my layman's interpretation.

===

In 1991, the Clinton administration launched a program of highway-rail grade crossing improvements on intercity lines that could reasonably be expected to reach top speeds of 90mph, up from the 79mph permitted with antiquated legacy signaling equipment.

This was codified in the ISTEA legislation, leading to section 104(d)(2) of title 23, United States Code:

(B) Eligible corridors.— Subject to subparagraph (E), funds made available under subparagraph (A) shall be expended for projects in—
(i) 5 railway corridors selected by the Secretary in accordance with this subsection (as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this clause);
(ii) 3 railway corridors selected by the Secretary in accordance with subparagraphs (C) and (D);
(iii) a Gulf Coast high speed railway corridor (as designated by the Secretary);
(iv) a Keystone high speed railway corridor from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and
(v) an Empire State railway corridor from New York City to Albany to Buffalo, New York.

(C) Required inclusion of high speed rail lines.— A corridor selected by the Secretary under subparagraph (B) shall include rail lines where railroad speeds of 90 miles or more per hour are occurring or can reasonably be expected to occur in the future.


ISTEA authorized five corridors, the 1998 TEA-21 law upped that to 11. Of these, only 10 have been formally designated as described in FRA's chronology, leading to the High-Speed Rail Corridor Descriptions and the associated map.

Note that corridors have at times be modified or redefined, e.g. the California corridor:

October 19, 1992. Secretary of Transportation Andrew H. Card Jr. announces designation of the California high-speed rail corridor linking San Diego and Los Angeles with the Bay Area and Sacramento via the San Joaquin Valley.October 11, 2000. Secretary [of Transportation Rodney] Slater [...] also clarified that “the designated California corridor comprehends the entire region lying between and among the extensive metropolitan areas of the San Francisco Bay , Sacramento , Los Angeles , and San Diego .”Note that FRA, part of USDOT, formally designated only 10 corridors in the context of the grade crossing improvement program, technically leaving one slot vacant. The reasoning was that the NEC did not merit designation as it was already almost completely grade separated by 1992.

---

In 2008, Congress passed H.R. 2095 [110th]: Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Note that its text makes frequent reference to H.R. 6003 [110th]: Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, a bill that never became law.

Title V -- High Speed Rail
SEC. 501. HIGH-SPEED RAIL CORRIDOR PROGRAM.
Sec 26106 (b)
(2) CORRIDOR- The term ‘corridor’ means a corridor designated by the Secretary pursuant to section 104(d)(2) of title 23.
(4) HIGH-SPEED RAIL- The term ‘high-speed rail’ means intercity passenger rail service that is reasonably expected to reach speeds of at least 110 miles per hour.

SEC. 502. ADDITIONAL HIGH-SPEED RAIL PROJECTS
(a) Solicitation of Proposals-
(1) IN GENERAL- Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall issue a request for proposals for projects for the financing, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of a high-speed intercity passenger rail system operating within a high-speed rail corridor, including--

(A) the Northeast Corridor;

(B) the California Corridor;

(C) the Empire Corridor;

(D) the Pacific Northwest Corridor;

(E) the South Central Corridor;

(F) the Gulf Coast Corridor;

(G) the Chicago Hub Network;

(H) the Florida Corridor;

(I) the Keystone Corridor;

(J) the Northern New England Corridor; and

(K) the Southeast Corridor.
IMHO, the sense of Congress is that the corridors established by the processes following ISTEA and TEA-21 have now been promoted to a new High Speed Rail program that supersedes the objectives of the previous one.

Specifically, the Northeast Corridor is now per definition corridor #11. There no longer is a vacant slot.

In addition, eligibility for the $1.5 billion allocated under the new program are limited to projects that can be reasonably expected to achieve top speeds of 110mph. In other words, the old 90mph definition is history.

Note that H.R. 2095 [110th] does not specify a maximum federal share for high speed rail projects. By default, that means it can go as high as 100%, even though most other aspects of the bill set a limit of 80%.

---

In 2009, Congress passed H.R. 1 [111th]. The Joint Explanatory Statement Of The Comittee Of Conference - Division A clarifies the following on p82 of the PDF version:

CAPITAL ASSISTANCE FOR HIGH SPEED RAIL CORRIDORS AND INTERCITY PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE
The conference agreement provides $8,000,000,000 instead o f $300,000,000 as
proposed b y the House and $2,250,000,000 as proposed by the Senate. The conferees
appropriated funds for purposes outlined in both the Capital Assistance to States and the
High Speed Passenger Rail program' under a combined heading. The conferees have
provided the Secretary flexibility in allocating resources between the programs to
advance the goal o f deploying intercity high speed rail systems in the United States. The
Capital Assistance to States program first received funding in fiscal year 2008. The High
Speed Passenger Rail program is a new initiative recently authorized under the Passenger
Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.
In other words, the latest $8 billion are to be disbursed subject to the new eligibility criteria laid out in H.R. 2095 [110th]. The stimulus bill explicitly permits a federal share of up to 100% for HSR projects.

===

Bottom line for SoCal-Las Vegas:

a) There is currently no scope for adding this as a stand-alone federally designated corridor.

b) Even if such a corridor were designated in the future, it would not be eligible for HSR funds allocated in H.R. 2095 [110th] or H.R. 1 [111th] unless those bills were updated accordingly.

c) USDOT has some leeway in expanding or redefining already existing corridors without a new act of Congress - something I previously believed was required in all cases.

The best bet might therefore be for the governors of California and Nevada to petition Secr. LaHood to include Las Vegas as a new destination on the California network, which should then be renamed "Cal-Neva", "Southwest" or some such.

In practice, this would mean any HSR service out to Las Vegas would have to use technology compatible with the one already chosen for the California network. Bye-bye maglev, hello electrified steel wheels at 220mph.

---

Simply getting Las Vegas onto the FRA's map of designated HSR corridors is of course not at all the same thing as actually securing federal funding for a spur out there. That would have to be framed as an extension of the California program EIR/EIS, with specific requirements.

Here are my personal suggestions:

i) absolutely no gambling on board trains while on CA soil. Other forms of entertainment that are legal in California are permitted, provided of course that minors are denied access to services intended for adults.

ii) no additional crossing of the San Andreas fault unless and until passenger demand justifies its construction.

In other words, connect at Mojave to begin with. A shortcut from Colton to Barstow via the Cajon Pass may be considered in the future.

iii) direct service between Las Vegas and San Francisco, Anaheim/Irvine, San Diego, Sacramento would require the integration of schedules and an arrangement for mutual trackage fees, ticket acceptance etc.

Otherwise, passengers would have to transfer in Palmdale. Arrangements for high speed cargo service, if any, would need to be negotiated separately.

iv) no federal contribution toward the construction of the Ivanpah Valley relief airport or a dedicated high speed rail link, irrespective of technology, between it and Las Vegas.

In other words, Nevada should leverage HSR plus the Palmdale and Ontario airports to deal with capacity issues at McCurran.

v) no financial contribution to the additional rail infrastructure or trainsets required for service out to Las Vegas by the State of California.

When you're broke, you're broke. This would be between the State of Nevada, Clark county, the city of Las Vegas, private business and the federal government.

The flip side is that California would not be in a position to force Nevada to construct HSR stations in Mojave or Barstow, small desert towns that anyhow don't have enough water to support significant population growth. However, if there are to be no stops between Bakersfield/Palmdale and Las Vegas, the rail alignment should run sufficiently far from these towns to avoid environmental (visual/vibration/noise) impacts on them.

vi) if both parties wish it, inclusion in the EIR/EIS process of a new high voltage DC power transmission line in close but safe proximity to the rail alignment, to provide renewable electricity from the State of Nevada and selected California counties (Inyo, San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial) to the Los Angeles basin.

The alignment of the transmission line could deviate from that of the high speed rails west of Barstow. The funding model for the transmission line would be entirely separate from that of the HSR line.

jim said...

@ rafael - "In other words, connect at Mojave to begin with. A shortcut from Colton to Barstow via the Cajon Pass may be considered in the future"------In other words, do what makes sense to anyone on the street looking at a map - that any hsr to vegas makes most sense as a future extension from mojave. Simple, straightforward, minimal expense, easy terrain and lttle nimbyism. Add to that, as mentioned - californians are barely in the mood for hsr to begin with, let them get a whiff of the harry reid project and forget about it. Also, conservatives at the national level would have a field day. As much as we all support HSR, its too important for the dems and Obama to get another term to risk political capital by letting conservatives sink their teeth into a proposed "sin train"

Rafael said...

@ jim -

as I said: no financial contribution by the state of California.As for whatever the federal GOP makes of it, who cares? Honestly: who gives a damn?

A Mojave-Las Vegas HSR spur would not get priority treatment because it would be completely useless without the California starter line. And the latter is far from funded.

quake curious said...

out of curiosity, why did you throw in there - no additional crossing of the San Andreas fault?

Clem said...

@quake curious: crossing an active fault is a bad omen, and will measurably reduce your gambling odds.

jim said...

Unless the fault ruptures and moves significantly at the exact time and place that a train is crossing its not different than any seismic event near the railroad. Any seismeic event shuts the system down anyway until tracks can be expected. Granted, even the slow movement along the faultline will move the tracks from alignment over time but its easy to mitigate.

jim said...

you couls also build a certain amount of flexibility in the row be it at grade/elevated or tunneled at the point it crosses the faultine just as the bart tube has built in flexibility which performed quite well in loma prieta.

Jack said...

How does a $8B train that facilitates the conversion of California Taxpayer's wealth into Nevada gambling loss help California's economy?

build the main line first, and charge Nevada tariff to add a connecting line to Vegas.

fault curious said...

http://www.consrv.ca.gov/cgs/rghm/ap/Pages/affected.aspx

Well, I guess you have to get the map itself in person, but here's a link to effected cities for "Fault Rupture Hazard Zones in California"

Of interest on this list:
South San Francisco
San Bruno
Palo Alto
San Jose
(and there are others in SoCal, and central cal, but I'm not familiar with route town names south of Gilroy)

These don't seem to be your generic 'we get earthquakes' cities (in California who doesn't!), because not every California city is on this list. This appears to be fault zone hazard specific.

So why is San Andreas a fault issue worth mention, but not other fault zones? (everyone knows San Andreas is not the most active fault anyway - Hayward fault, Loma Prieta, and others much more of an issue).

What's the impact here? What kind of special risks, mitigations (and costs) are we going to expect to see in the USGS specified fault hazard zones?

Rafael said...

@ quake curious -

I could have said "no new mountain crossing into the LA basin". Same difference, any spur to Las Vegas would have to connect to the HSR starter line at Mojave.

In Cajon Pass, any remaining at-grade alignments with small gradients should be reserved for future expansion of freight rail, because 1 in 7 jobs in LA county depend on the harbors. HSR tracks would have to run elsewhere on a steeper alignment, probably involving a number of expensive tunnels. That's why the DesertXPress project calls for a terminus in Victorville.

I see no reason why federal taxes paid by California residents should go toward an expensive additional mountain crossing - the one between Palmdale and Sylmar will do nicely for starters.

@ clem -

if you're right, then holier-than-thou anti-gambling zealots in California will have nothing to worry about. Trains will cross the San Andreas near Palmdale and the Garlock fault in the Tehachapis.

@ Jack -

as long as it's no skin off the state of California's back, why not let Nevada pursue a spur off the California HSR network? After all, Nevadans pay federal taxes and some of those will be used for the California network.

Besides, plenty of California residents head out to Las Vegas today, by car or short-hop plane. Freeing up slots at California airports for long-haul flights, avoiding the construction of a new airport at the CA-NV border and not having to add any lane-miles to I-15 would all be worthwhile outcomes.

fa said...

http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1999/fs151-99/

Interesting fault map of Northern California on this page.

theo said...

If we're excluding Las Vegas from the network on account of being a sunny, waterless town with an economy based on fraud and real estate Ponzi schemes, then we should exclude Irvine too.

For the record, I'm for including both. :)

Rafael said...

@ theo -

plenty of people played the real estate lottery in California and many of them gained or lost way more than they ever would in Vegas.

Btw, Las Vegas may be in the desert but it's pretty close to the Colorado. I'm not sure about their water rights, but in terms of being far removed from natural sources of fresh water, southern California and the Bay Area are both far worse.

Note that the Salton Sea was a bone-dry lake bed before 1905, when a dike along the Colorado river broke and filled it back up again.

BruceMcF said...

Vegas puts in a request for money to study three options ... Maglev, 110mph diesel tilt-train, spur to CA-HSR ... with the results of the study to help determine whether to petition to add LV to the CA-HSR system.

IOW, punt ... get ground broken on Stage 1 before getting around to deciding whether to add LV to the corridor map.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

Harry Reid already finagled $45 million out of Congress to study maglev out to the CA-NV border, i.e. to the planned Ivanpah Valley airport. Why build all that when for the same money you could connect to the California bullet train system that would permit direct services between LV and 85% of the CA population? About 1/3 of all flights into McCurran originate in CA.

Besides, there is no ROW for maglev in the San Gabriel Valley. California HSR is struggling to find one between LA US and Riverside as it is.

As for 110mph diesel, that's slower than what DesertXPress is proposing to pay for privately, so why bother? They already pretty far down the road with their EIR/EIS and are even looking at overhead catenaries now. Apparently, they've figured out that 125mph just isn't fast enough to attract sufficient passenger volume and break even.

Morris Brown said...

Rafael:

Harry Reid already finagled $45 million out of Congress to study maglev out to the CA-NV border,
...
My understanding was he got a budgets item for this expenditure, but never got the appropriation. Do you know otherwise?

SwitchingModes.com said...

Nevada is broke. They do not have property taxes, they rely almost solely on gambling revenues and sales tax - neither of witch are doing well right now. I don't see any Nevada state funding being committed to the project solely because there isn't any. While MagLev might not be the right solution, I still support Vegas HSR - it would boost their economy, cut greenhouse emissions and complement CHSR. However, it would have little to no effect on the California economy (aside from jobs), so California is going to just stay out of this one.

BruceMcF said...

Rafeal: "Harry Reid already finagled $45 million out of Congress to study maglev out to the CA-NV border, i.e. to the planned Ivanpah Valley airport. Why build all that when for the same money you could connect to the California bullet train system that would permit direct services between LV and 85% of the CA population? About 1/3 of all flights into McCurran originate in CA."

Ah, so you are saying we already know what the cost benefit comparison will say regarding that option.

"As for 110mph diesel, that's slower than what DesertXPress is proposing to pay for privately, so why bother? They already pretty far down the road with their EIR/EIS and are even looking at overhead catenaries now. Apparently, they've figured out that 125mph just isn't fast enough to attract sufficient passenger volume and break even."

And you are saying you know what the cost benefit will say for the comparison to that option.

So I take that as a strong endorsement for the punt.

Devil's Advocate said...

HSR to Sin City may not be a priority for the Fed Gov't (or California) but it would be profitable and should be a priority for the State of Nevada, especially because it would benefit Vegas, more than it would benefit California. It would greatly increase the number of tourists to LV, and also the number of conference goers from California. If built, they should be allowed to have gambling on board (maybe in California the train should be designated as a "Rolling Indian Reservation" (train personnel should be native Americans of course). Once in Nevada territory the trains should also allow prostitution on board (some cars could be converted to sleeping cars for that purpose). Obviously, since the distance from the California border to Vegas is very short, customers should be allowed only to have quickies.

BruceMcF said...

That's silly ... the gambling would be Nevada Only, in the Gambling Car which has its doors locked until the train crosses the Nevada border.

Of course, the roomettes in the car behind it would have to be equipped with cold water sprinklers to terminate the activity when getting close to the environs of Las Vegas where prostitution is illegal (I presume those laws were passed by the mob, since legal prostitution is of no real use to organized crime).

Spokker said...

Passenger rail in the United States is nothing more than an infant industry today. Much like Japanese automakers in the 1950s, passenger rail in the US cannot become big until it becomes competitive. Paradoxically, it cannot become competitive until it becomes big. Therefore for passenger rail to get off the ground it requires protection.

John Stuart Mill writes in defense of temporary protection for infant industries.

"The only case in which ... protecting duties can be defensible is when they are imposed temporarily in hopes of naturalizing a foreign industry in itself perfectly suitable to the circumstances of the country."

He goes on to say that protection should stop when the industry has been given a fair shot of demonstrating what it can accomplish.

Passenger rail, including HSR, is an infant industry worthy of protection if you believe that the success of HSR in other countries can be replicated here. The first thing we should do is dispense with the notion that the United States is too vast to sustain bullet train operations. No one is talking about building a route from Los Angeles to New York. If you take the United States as a whole it is a country with vast amounts of empty space that is best traversed in the sky. However, connecting metropolitan areas several hundred miles apart where populations have become quite dense, such as Los Angeles, is a goal worthy of investment. Divide the US into a bunch of Koreas and Japans and you'll see a lot of opportunity for HSR.

Driving and flying are mature industries. They enjoy popularity only because their modern infrastructure got its start before modern railroad infrastructure did (19th century rails don't count). Of course driving and flying appear more attractive in most situations than taking the train. In many corridors driving and flying have little to no competition. In many cases driving and flying hold a monopoly on travel between point A and point B. Starving passenger rail of investment is just another way of limiting competition and barring a potential entrant who wishes to do business.

Once passenger rail has been built up to the point where it can be pushed out of the nest, the training wheels can be taken off all three modes of travel, so to speak, and in my opinion, all three will rapidly flourish and innovate.

I don't want to see people get rid of their cars. I don't want to see people stop flying. What I do want to see is people walking, driving, taking the train, or flying when it is appropriate to do so.

It doesn't make sense to build a high speed rail line from Los Angeles to New York any more than it is to fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

At the point where high speed rail is self-sustainable and given the proper investment and time to achieve that, I would like to see its operations privatized. Virgin, French operators, or some firm we've never heard of could run trains someday, engage in price wars, and try to outdo each other in the amenities they offer.

But none of that can happen until passenger rail is given the fair shot it deserves. That Amtrak has existed for almost 40 years and hasn't made a dime doesn't count. That wasn't exactly what I would call protecting an infant industry. That was more like infanticide.

resident said...

Infant industries? ARe you high? Its way older than driving and flying. Its a mature industry that's trying to reinvent itself with new technology. It practically died out because it couldn't compete with driving and flying on either time, cost or flexibility. The only question left is whether it can reinvent itself to solve ANY of those problems. The answer is no, absolutely not. As soon as the auto industry's butt is kicked into reinventing the gas engine (which its on the cusp of now) then passenger rail goes back to Disneyland novelty ride status. Its simply a question of which one now is cheaper and faster to reinvent. I'll put my bet on auto industry.

Spokker said...

It died out when subsidized highways built by the government started covering the country. How could private passenger rail have competed against that?

"As soon as the auto industry's butt is kicked into reinventing the gas engine (which its on the cusp of now)"

They are making progress, but I wouldn't call it on the cusp. If and when the electric car becomes mainstream and affordable you still have to deal with congestion. Also, rail continues to be an attractive alternative for medium distance trips. I don't want to drive from LA to San Francisco no matter what my car is running on. I'll take the train. Driving will continue to remain a risky activity that induces much stress.

Spokker said...

Hehe.

Brandon in San Diego said...

I don't think it will be too hard for Nevada to get the map edited to include a new ink line linking Las Vegas to Southern California. In fact, teh same holds true for many other metro areas not currently identified.

The main point of the legislation and idetification of the corridors/hubs is that it gives those regions and their lead agencies a 'hunting license' to apply for federal funds.

However, securing those funds will be a matter of 1) illustrating project merit, and 2) committing a local/state match.

So, I am not too concerned about Las Vegas getting on the map. If a project has merit and those regions are willing and able to help financially support an HSR project... fantastic!

--
Although, I have doubts California would be able to get too invested in a Las Vegas to Southern California line; either politically or financially.

But for giggles... LV to SoCal would be somewhere between 200 and 250 miles. I suspect construction costs and land would be very reasonable... but let's say on the high end it's $100m mile. The total would be $20b to $25b. If the feds provide 50%, then the local/state cost is $10b to $12.5b. Private sector may have interest too... especially from gambling; let's assume $1b from them and another $1b from other private interest. That then leaves approximately $8b to $10.5b left to the state of California and Nevada to p/u. Nevada, it would seem, would benefit emmensely. So let's further estimate that Nevada p/u 75% of the remainder, or $6b to $7.9b. California p/u 25% of the remainder, or $2b to $2.6b.

That formula seems to pass a smell test... optomistically speaking. If Californians and our legislature see a measurable benefit... each just may be able to get behind such an investment. But, that is assuming the stars are aligned.

jim said...

@resident -- The rail industry is booming in the US and worldwide. The investments will continue to be made whether it pleases you are not.

bugsy said...

Resident's true thought paterns are showing what kind of people oppose HSR. It seems he/she is another rabbid train hater, simple. Or you work assembling Hummers for GM and trains threaten your job? Or maybe you people don't want our tax dollars to go to something you would "never" use because you don't want to sell that certain SUV and take the train with strangers. But your comments alone will show everyone how seriously to take you, it's not looking good for you.

So I laugh at your moronic view on how train travel is old, dead tech. Not true, the auto industry and it's lobbyist's starved rail travel and dismantled our passenger rail networks, that's why!

luis d. said...

Is their a way that DesertXpress can Join CHSRA like it did with PCJPB on the Caltrain Corridor but for the L.A-LV route?

Keep the project as is, financed entirely by it's investors, owned by it's investors but operated by the State's HSR operator (who ever that might be)? Keep the equipment compatible? They would require Full electrification and not diesel trains like I've heard, not restricted to 150mph Max Speed because of it.

Revinue on that leg will go to it's investors/owners with a small portion going to CHSRA or the state's HSR system (Whoever is collecting revinue and paying back the bonds) since they will be feeding passengers to the Las Vegas Line? Hasn't anyone suggested they collaborate? This next quote is from DesertXpress's Website:

A Fully Expandable System

The initial privately financed DesertXpress line could be extended over Cajon Pass into the Los Angeles basin, west through the Antelope Valley, or as otherwise needed to provide for connections with multiple transport options in the future, including the state of California's proposed high speed rail network which has a station planned in Palmdale, west of Victorville. And because the system would use non-proprietary, high quality, standard gauge steel rail technology, it is compatible with the proposed California High Speed Rail system. This also ensures that the lowest possible cost can be realized for such expansions.

luis d. said...

One thing I do know is that California should have zero to do with using our state money to help our citizens move more money out of our State and dump it Nevada. If Las Vegas, or the State of Nevada wants to build it they should pay 100% to build it.

We only have a minimal responsibility to help give our Citizens the mobility to travel that route since it's located in California and traveled by us, minimal.

Rafael said...

@ Brandon -

I sincerely doubt Mojave-Barstow-Las Vegas would cost $20 billion, the terrain is mostly flat and there are few NIMBYs to worry about. It's not even self-evident that full double tracking is required, a number of carefully placed bypasses could be enough, at least initially. Outbound trains would then presumably be as large as possible on Friday nights.

I see no reason for the state of California to chip in on a spur to Vegas. Congress and individual counties may decide otherwise, that's up to them.

@ luis d -

The strictly private DesertXPress consortium was set up out of frustration with politicians who were dragging their feet regarding congestion on I-15 and at McCurran.

They might well be open to the idea of connecting to the California system, but it wouldn't be at all comparable to the partnership between PCJPB and CHSRA. There is no passenger rail service to Las Vegas today.

However, it's entirely possible DesertXPress would stick with Victorville and expect someone else to pay for the Mojave-Barstow connector. The LA-Riverside-San Diego spur won't be built for a long time yet and they want to make it easier for folks in that neck of the woods to go to Las Vegas.

BruceMcF said...

resident said...
"Infant industries? ARe you high? Its way older than driving and flying. Its a mature industry that's trying to reinvent itself with new technology."

That is, a mature industry that has successfully re-invented itself with new technology, in countries that do not give driving such a heavily subsidized free ride.

So the United States in the position of a low income country, looking to see if it can develop a local infant industry in order to catch up technologically with the high income countries.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Raf-
That's my point... the cost born to California would not be very high; relatively speaking. High numbers were used intentionally.

And, a line to LV would certainly include double tracking. It provides operational flexibility AND most importantly, added safety.

Spokker said...

Of course, the concept of a vehicle with steel rails moving on steel rails is an old one. However, when you look at the amount and quality of infrastructure dedicated to highways, airports and passenger railroads today, it's clear that railroads could never compete.

The Obama administration spells it out perfectly in their vision for high speed rail. They explain how little investment there has been in passenger rail in this country, but that message isn't exactly resonating out there in the land of arguments and flame wars.

When somebody says, "Nobody takes the train today!" you tell them why. When somebody says, "The US is too big to support passenger rail!" you set them straight. When they say that passenger rail hasn't made a dime in this country you explain to them how it never had a chance.

"the United States in the position of a low income country, looking to see if it can develop a local infant industry in order to catch up technologically with the high income countries."

Exactly. This is more along the lines of what I meant.

jim said...

Rafael said...
@ Brandon -
I sincerely doubt Mojave-Barstow-Las Vegas would cost $20 billion, the terrain is mostly flat and there are few NIMBYs to worry about. It's not even self-evident that full double tracking is required, a number of carefully placed bypasses could be enough, at least initially. Outbound trains would then presumably be as large as possible on Friday nights"

Exaclty! It must be the simplest stretch of track that could ever be built. how hard is it to move sand aroundand youd only have to run a few trains a day. Maybe three round trips.

Alon Levy said...

Jim: LV is larger than Lyon, and LA is larger than Paris. What on Earth makes you think that LA-LV HSR will amount to three daily roundtrips?

jim said...

because Lyon is a major industrial city in france and las vegas is a wasteland of cheap tract homes hookers and has been entertainers.

jim said...

The size of the two citiesr doesn't automatically translate into higher travel demand. How many people drive from and fly to vegas from LA everyday? consider the train would capture less that half those people. Its not a big industial/jobs hub its mainly a tourist and retirement destination. A morning round trip, a midday rt and a evening rt would be plenty to start.

jim said...

I for one, would much rather see cali invest hsr into the coachella valley and serve californians before worrying about nevada.

Alon Levy said...

So what if Lyon is industrial? tourism generates travel, too. And if you measure by the ratio of employment to population, LV has way more jobs, simply because the US has a higher jobs-to-population ratio than France.

Brandon in San Diego said...

I stand by my words conerning that stretch would certainly be double tracked... for safety reasons alone.

Further, I believe more than 4 trains a day is merited between SoCal and Las Vegas; however, if it were in the 3-4 range.... why the heck bother with HSR!!!

Is this the same person that HSR across the plains and Rockies connecting little bergs make sense?

jim said...

Las Vegas Nevada is not an important place. Never has been.