New High-Speed Trains proposed for Las Vegas

Last night there was a meeting with the developers of a new proposed high-speed train and the community.

The proposed train by DesertXpress is not to be confused with the proposed Maglev train.

Besides that there are some other important differences.

The DesertXpress would initially run from Victorville to Las Vegas.  Yes, you read that right, Victorville.  DesertXpress executives are talking to Barstow officials about a possible stop in Barstow.  The trip from Victorville to Las Vegas would take approximately an hour and a half and would cost $50 one-way for each passenger or $100 roundtrip per person.

They hope to connect to a terminus in Palmdale at a later date.  Construction on this first phase of Victorville to Las Vegas would take four years.  According to published reports about the meeting, 

"DesertXpress would share existing transportation corridors, mostly Interstate 15. For example, an 85-mile stretch from Yermo, Calif. to Mountain Pass would be built in the freeway median and alongside it, said Scott Steinwert, president of CirclePoint in San Francisco. CirclePoint is DesertXpress’ environmental consultant.

A span of the train could be built along the Union Pacific Railroad into the Las Vegas area, north of Jean. And a section of I-15 in the southern Las Vegas Valley could be built over the median – Steinwert called this an “aerial structure” – akin to the elevated AirTrain over the Van Wyck Expressway in Queens, N.Y.

A potential Las Vegas station could be near I-15 and Flamingo Road, Steinwert said. A maintenance facility could be built near I-15 and Wigwam or I-15 and Robindale Road."

DesertXpress says that the costs of building their train would be substainly less than the costs fo the proposed maglev train.

However, the Maglev train has two things going for it that the DesertXpress does not.  The Maglev would terminate in Anaheim about two miles from Disneyland and they would have a terminal in Palmdale as well.

As someone who drives the route to Las Vegas on a very regular basis, I'm intriqued by the whole high speed rail idea.  It has been talked about for more years than I can remember, at least thirty at this point.

Back in the 1970s and the 1980s, Amtrak ran the "Desert Wind" between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  The big problem with the train was that you could drive the route faster than the train could get you there.

My biggest problem with the proposed DesertXpress is that you would have to drive all the way to Victorville and leave your car there while you travel onto Las Vegas.  Once in Las Vegas, you would either have to rent-a-car or travel around car by cab.  Both add to the cost of the trip.

I'm one of those people who believe that there is more to do in Las Vegas than just hanging out on the famed Strip.  In fact, our upcoming Untold Stories next month (May 7th) focuses on Cultural Tourism, and so being carless in Las Vegas is not really an option for me.

The terminus in Victorville basically ensures that no one will travel from Las Vegas to visit Southern California.  I cannot imagine renting a car in Victorville and then driving on into Los Angeles or down to San Diego (and dealing with the traffic) for a long weekend.

This is where the Maglev train has the advantage in my book.  If Las Vegans could travel by train to Anaheim and be within two miles of Disneyland, then the potential for people in both states using the train increases.

The terminus in Palmdale that is proposed by the Maglev train makes it more beneficial for me as I travel the Antelope Valley/Mojave Highway 58/Interstate 15 route as opposed to the standard Interstate 10 to Interstate 15 route.

Also, the big thing that concerns me with the DesertXpress is that the proposed construction for putting the train, in certain areas, down the median of Interstate 15 will cause road work and traffic delays in the extreme on a stretch of highway that is one of the country's busiest in the west.

Lastly, whoever wins this debate will hopefully be farsighted enough to ensure that their technology works with the proposed high speed rail that will connect Palmdale to Northern California.

According to Richann Bender, the Executive Director of the company proposing the Maglev train, there is only room for one of the two proposed trains along the Los Angeles to Las Vegas corridor.

So, the debate will go on and in the meantime, The FRA approved DesertXpress’ draft environmental document last month. Comments from meeting attendees, as well as written testimony submitted by May 22, will be included in the final environmental document, said Wendy Messenger, the FRA’s project manager for the study.

But a high speed train that caters to both Californians and Nevadans would seem to the more advantageous of the two.