Some VERY welcome news from the LA Times:
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader and an ardent supporter of high speed rail systems, said today he no longer favors construction of a maglev -- or magnetic levitation -- train between Anaheim and Las Vegas.
Instead, the Nevada Democrat said he now favors a conventional high speed train between Victorville and Las Vegas -- a privately funded venture that is farther along in the planning process and cheaper to build than the maglev proposal, which has been studied for almost three decades.
“I”ve been working on this for 30 years," Reid said. "We’ve gotten nowhere. Maglev projects have been abandoned around the world. It’s time to stop talking and start doing something.”
One year ago today I posted one of my first criticisms of the maglev project, and in the 12 months since I have frequently called for Reid to abandon the maglev project and throw his considerable backing behind the much more realistic DesertXpress steel-wheel HSR proposal - which the Senate Majority Leader has finally done. Reid cited financial reasons for his decision:
Citing a recent Government Accountability Office study, Reid said he had lost confidence in the maglev project, which the report stated could cost up to $40 billion -- far more than originally estimated.
“Maglev is not a priority for me anymore,” Reid said. “We need to get people moving. The I-15 is not working.”
After the Republicans hammered him for asking for HSR stimulus funds for the train, Reid had a lot of incentive to drop the insanely expensive maglev plan. Now he is well-positioned to direct some (although probably not more than "some") HSR funds to the DesertXpress project.
This doesn't mean the maglev project is completely dead. It's just mostly dead. The Southern California Association of Governments still backs maglev, but I am doubtful how long that'll last. With Harry Reid switching to DesertXpress that means the Nevada political establishment will as well. And SCAG will be left alone in backing a maglev project with 20 years of history but no future at all.
The US needs a rail modernization project, not a great leap forward into the technologically and financially unknown. Until we've got steel wheel HSR up and functioning on the key corridors in the USA, maglev is going to have to remain a dream.