Construction crews could begin work on a proposed high-speed rail line to Las Vegas as early as next year, executives with the company behind the project said.
"The strong need for the project is clear and obvious," said Andrew Mack, vice president of Las Vegas-based DesertXpress Enterprises.
The devil is in the details of course. DesertXpress sees their financial plan as using ticket revenues to pay the costs of both construction and operation:
DesertXpress reports that construction and other start-up costs will total $3.5 to $4 billion. and that the line could be built in four years. The midpoint fare price is projected to be about $50.
If that pencils out, then this would be a pretty damn ideal solution. The $4 billion question is "will Southern Californians drive to Victorville and hop a train to Vegas?" and DesertXpress is confident that their ridership studies prove the answer is "yes." For everyone's sake I hope they are correct. My gut says they are - the ability to avoid the massive traffic jams on Interstate 15 on holiday weekends like this would be compelling. People would like the ability to relax on the trains, maybe get some work done as they approach their Vegas vacation, etc.
DesertXpress is also thinking ahead:
If DesertXpress happens, Mack said the most logical city to expand to would be Palmdale, where he said the train could link to the proposed California High Speed Rail system...
Victorville mayor pro tem Tom Rothschild, a Desert XPress supporter, said a high-speed rail line can be built in the near future. He thinks Maglev, which uses magnetic force to levitate and propel trains, is not yet practical.
"Maglev is great, don't mistake me. I think it's the greatest technology for the next half of this century," Rothschild said.
That being said, maglev still has support from Nevada politicians:
Yet for some reason maglev in the U.S. has yet to be widely embraced. It can be understood why this is the case in Europe, given its intricate, interconnected network of traditional and high-speed passenger trains with maximum speeds of 180 mph. In this country, however, we have the advantage of starting fresh.
We can paint the high-speed rail picture any way we want to. And, given the lack of a preexisting passenger rail infrastructure and great distances between U.S. cities (especially in the West and Midwest), the advantages of safe, environmentally responsible and state-of-the-art 300-mph maglev technology should be obvious.
The California-Nevada Interstate Maglev Project, which our administrations helped spearhead through local public-private partnerships, is one such effort that deserves the nation’s support.
I'm no expert on Nevada politics, so I don't quite know what influence former governors Kenny Guinn and Bob Miller still have in the state. But combined with Senator Harry Reid's big push for maglev, it suggests that while DesertXpress seems to be the more financially and technically viable solution, maglev still has the key political support.
Which is a ridiculous situation. Maglev isn't going to get built on the LA-Vegas corridor. *If* the US were to ever embrace maglev I cannot imagine it would happen on that low-population, low-importance corridor. I could see it happening in the midwest or on the Acela route. Not here.
The sooner Nevada's political leadership can line up behind the DesertXpress plan, the better we will be.