Thursday, July 2, 2009

SoCal to Vegas to Become Official Federal HSR Corridor Today

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

This image is about to get a makeover:

That's the map of the USDOT HSR corridors. One corridor that's not there is Los Angeles to Las Vegas. That is changing today:

The U.S. Transportation secretary will announce today the designation of a federal high-speed-rail corridor between Las Vegas and Southern California, a major assist that enables the long-imagined train route to compete for $8 billion in economic recovery funding and other federal support, the Las Vegas Sun has learned.

The announcement comes as two proposed fast trains are vying to connect Las Vegas and Southern California, a race that has intensified since President Barack Obama unleashed an unprecedented investment in high-speed rail as part of the stimulus bill approved by Congress.

It is unclear whether today’s announcement will favor one of the competing projects over the other. However, the federal designation improves the chances that a train will be developed between the two regions by opening the door to federal aid. Analysts think only one train system will be built.

DesertXpress has not as of yet planned to seek federal aid. I suspect that will have to change. Vegas is in the middle of a severe downturn, which means there's going to be much less private money available to fund it. The maglev is still alive, although with Sen. Harry Reid having switched his support to DesertXpress, I don't see the maglev plan lasting a whole lot longer. Some of its remaining backers include Bellagio CEO Bruce Aguilera, but the Bellagio and the other Vegas resorts are going to have their hands full riding out the recession.

I expect DesertXpress to be the "last project standing" along the Vegas HSR corridor. Whether it gets built, of course, is another matter entirely.


Unknown said...

Does this plan include connecting to LA? Or is it still hamstrung by stopping before the mountains.

Reality Check said...

Jack: it's not a plan. It's just a federal HSR corridor designation which will permit qualifying HSR projects in the corridor compete for federal support/funding.

Unknown said...

I know that about the corridor. The post also mentioned competing plans. Was The DesertXpress plan the one that "goes all the way?"

Peter said...

The DX plan currently only goes to Victorville in the 1st phase, but will connect to Palmdale and the rest of CAHSR in the 2nd phase.

That's better than the maglev, who's 1st phase will only be to Primm, NV (where there are a few casinos and outlet malls, nothing else). The maglev in it's 1st phase will basically be a glorified shuttle to the Ivanpah Airport (if that ever gets built).

TomW said...

They should also add Houston-Auston/San Antonio. It's insane that houston is part of the 'Gulf coast' segments, rather than the 'South central'. Jacksonville-Orlando would also be sensible.

Rafael said...

In a logical move, Harry Reid scuttles $45 million for studying the maglev pipedream.

No word yet on whether that money will be re-allocated to the steel wheels project instead. Expect the GOP to crow "I told you so" if it is. Frankly, no-one will care.

How much would a Barstow-Mojave HSR connector cost, anyway?

Peter said...

TomW: yeah, one big problem with the current corridor concept is that it doesn't form a system. There's a nice coherent system down the eastern seaboard and radiating from Chicago, but there 3 really short, obvious, pieces missing:
Cleveland to Pittsburgh and/or Buffalo
Orlando to Jacksonville
Houston to San Antonio

None of those connectors is more than 200 miles so by HSR standards is quite short.

We'll see how Texas turns out, since the Texas HSR group is looking at the "Texas T". There's no way politically that Texas could build a HSR line and not include Houston in it.

Anonymous said...

map and article in Las Vegas Sun

BruceMcF said...

@ Peter ... I don't see the problem. Both the Midwest Hub and Ohio Hub sought designation for the corridors they plan to build in first. When the first corridors are built, they can seek designation for the rest of their planned system.

IOW, Pittsburgh/Cleveland, Pittsburgh/Columbus, Columbus/Indianapolis, Toledo/Detroit, Toledo/Columbus are all in the Ohio Hub plan. Getting the designation for any of them before there's any basis for applying for funding would be a waste of time and effort.

IOW, since planning precedes corridor designation, which is part of the funding process, it would be silly to treat the corridor designation as if it is a master plan.