Photo California High Speed Rail
Medium Technology Solution Exists
The state of California recently applied for $4.7 billion in federal funds to supplant Propositon 1A funds approved by voters in last November's election. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has pledged state matching funds bringing the amount to almost $10 billion if the application is successful. The total amount for California's 800 mile system is $40 billion and would be running between northern and southern California by 2020. The north south orientation is planned to compete with airline travel between the two areas. According to a recent Brookings Institution study, this corridor is one of the most heavily traveled short haul airline routes in the nation. The other is Los Angeles - Las Vegas. Anyone who has recently traveled by auto between LV and LA knows this is also a very heavily traveled auto route and one that could benefit from a rail option, high speed or otherwise. Amtrak cancelled rail service, called the Desert Wind, between the LA and LV continuing on to Salt lake City in 1996, for reasons that are not entirely clear but was said to be for cost cutting. Ironically, Amtrak is looking to reinstate a train called the Pioneer which serviced Chicago,Salt Lake City and Seattle. The Desert Wind served as a connector for passengers in Salt Lake City.
The current plans for rail between LV and LA are a question at best. The Maglev option which could be decades away, just received $45 million to study the feasibility of the project. The plan was to run between LV and Anaheim, with a connection to California High Speed rail. Both geographical, technical and budgetary issues could take decades to resolve and the cost is now estimated to be over $40 billion. There are currently no commercial Maglev systems operating anywhere in the world. Another private investment option would be a high speed steel wheel on rail system called Desert Xpress that would run between Victorville and Las Vegas. So, passengers driving to LV would ostensibly get out of their cars after already driving for two hours from LA to go the rest of the way. Drivers from LV to LA would have to figure out a way to get to their southland destinations. An option offered to get passengers from Victorville to LA is a Metrolink. All of these option could take many years but a low tech solution exists now that could at least provide another travel option.
While AMTRAK cancelled LV LA service in 1996, a proposal to reinstate service using Talgo trainsets built in Spain failed to survive a budget ax in 2000 and the purchased trainset went to service in the Pacific Northwest running between Seattle, Wa. and Eugene, Or. AMTRAK could reinstate service very soon but is hesitant to do so without the public support and political prodding. The Union Pacific Railroad owned tracks exist and the route has cleared environmental impact study hurdles. All that is needed is equipment and permission to run. If trains could run between the cities in 4 hours or less using existing technology, this would provide an incentive to get people out of their cars, increase tourist travel while saving energy and help provide an economic boost to the region. While the other LA LV transportation options are interesting and are worthy of study, they are too far away in time and money to help the present situation. It seems the cheapest and quickest option to restarting LA to LV service is getting a TALGO like train on track for service with an eye towards restoring the Desert Wind between LA and Salt Lake City.