by Robert Cruickshank
One of the, shall we say, "interesting" features of the Draft EIS for the DesertXpress HSR project is a lack of a station in Barstow. As revealed at Wednesday night's scoping meeting in Barstow, this has locals rather upset:
During a public comment session in Barstow Wednesday night on a proposed high-speed rail line that would run from Victorville to Las Vegas, city officials and residents remained critical of the project’s lack of plans for a stop in Barstow and the potential for the route to encroach on development in the city’s industrial park....
Barstow’s City Council unanimously voted at a special meeting Tuesday to approve written comments that criticize the environmental document for failing to analyze placement of a station or maintenance facility in Barstow. The comments also highlighted the potential impacts on development from a proposed route that would cross diagonally through the Barstow Industrial Park.
The article explains some of the back-and-forth between Barstow and DesertXpress - DX claims the city didn't get in touch with them until too late in the EIS process; Barstow claims DX had heard their concerns but never followed up on them.
As pretty much the only major settlement between the edge of the SoCal megalopolis (in this case, Victorville) and Vegas, Barstow probably deserves a stop. It could add riders from the Central Valley and the SF Bay Area - if I were driving to Vegas and had an option of parking in Barstow and riding a train the rest of the way I'd probably take it, and I suspect many others would as well.
Not everyone in Barstow is sure about the HSR concept, however:
Other commenters questioned whether the train project would be viable and whether it would really relieve congestion on Interstate 15, when people would still need to drive up the Cajon Pass from the Los Angeles Basin in order to board the train in Victorville.
“(Californians) love their cars, and they’re not going to let them go to come to Victorville to go to Vegas,” said Barstow resident Carmen Hernandez, who also sits on the city’s Planning Commission.
Ah, the "Californians love their cars" canard. Whenever a viable alternative has been given to them - subways, light rail, commuter rail - Californians have proven over and over again that they will take it. California's "love affair" with the automobile more closely resembles an arranged marriage. I love driving through Big Sur as much as the next person, but give me a train to SF or LA or Vegas any day over driving there.
I also wonder if Hernandez and others are concerned about the impact of a train on Barstow businesses. Barstow has always existed as a waystation for travelers. First for the transcontinental railroads, and then for folks driving to Vegas. Most of the city budget comes from sales taxes on traveler spending.
Still, if Vegas HSR is going to happen, it'll be on the DesertXpress model, and Barstow would do well to get in on the action. DX should include a study of a Barstow stop, and the city should unite around the steel-wheel HSR solution and quit daydreaming of a maglev train that is NEVER going to be built.