- DesertXpress high-speed rail project rolls forward (2-21-2011)
- DesertXpress rail project going after tax dollars, after all (2-21-2011)
- DesertXpress top executive retires from high-speed rail project (12-17-2010)
- With new leaders, a revival of maglev high-speed rail? (11-25-2010)
- Harry Reid hopeful DesertXpress gets support from next governor (10-13-2010)
- Transportation secretary envisions nation connected by high-speed rail (10-13-2010)
- High-speed rail: Will it be worth the wait for Nevadans? (9-31-2010)
- DesertXpress likely further delayed by a federal agency (9-24-2010)
- Work on high-speed rail set to begin this year (3-25-2010)
- $45 million for maglev shifted to airport road project (3-17-2010)
The U.S. Transportation Department has given the green light to developers of DesertXpress to begin preliminary engineering for the $6 billion, 186-mile high-speed rail project that would link Las Vegas with Victorville, Calif.
The approval, known as a record of decision, is the final step in the arduous process of preparing an environmental impact statement on the controversial project.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office issued a news release Tuesday announcing the record of decision.
This “announcement is about one thing: creating good-paying jobs right here in Nevada,” the Nevada Democrat said in the release. “This major step forward for the privately sponsored DesertXpress project will create more than 32,000 jobs in Southern Nevada and boost our economy by providing another way for tourists to visit and enjoy this great state.”
The announcement comes days before an anticipated House vote in which Republicans have vowed to divert $1.5 billion earmarked for high-speed rail projects to Midwest flood relief.
Such a move could deliver a financial blow to the California High Speed Rail Authority, which is counting on federal funding to help develop a rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco and Sacramento.
DesertXpress officials are counting on extending their line from Victorville to the California system with a 50-mile link west to Palmdale. Currently, that’s the only plan in place for passengers to travel between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Critics have ripped Victorville as a terminus of the DesertXpress route, saying Southern Californians wouldn’t park their cars there to ride the train and Las Vegans wanting to go to Southern California would have to rent cars to continue their journey.
The Federal Railroad Administration has overseen the environmental review process, which began in 2006. The process was complicated because the route crossed land administered by the Federal Highway Administration, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Surface Transportation Board, and each agency had to sign off on the plan.
The twin-track route would run primarily within the Interstate 15 right-of-way, with trains reaching speeds of about 150 mph. Company officials have estimated ticket prices to average $50 each way. An estimated 26 percent of Las Vegas visitors come from Southern California.
A UNLV report says the DesertXpress project would produce an estimated 17,469 primary jobs and 16,432 secondary jobs in Clark County by 2013.
The project also is expected to result in 50,000 jobs in Southern California’s San Bernardino County.
DesertXpress officials said they were encouraged by the publication of the record of decision, which would enable the Federal Railroad Administration to review a $5.9 billion federal loan application.
In an emailed statement, a representative of the company said, “With the continued support of federal, state and local leaders, DesertXpress is committed to becoming our country’s first true high-speed rail line.”