Trains For America

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Las Vegas Maglev gets its federal dollars for environmental study

President Bush has signed into law the revision of a 2005 transportation bill that authorizes $45 million for the LA-Las Vegas Maglev project. The revision corrects a technical error made in the original draft that prevented the project from getting its money. In the interim, proposals for a more traditional high speed train along the route have garnered attention.

The AP has some background details on the route:

The train is meant to ease traffic on increasingly clogged Interstate 15, the main route for the millions of Southern Californians who make the 250-plus-mile drive to Las Vegas each year. There is no train on the route—Amtrak’s Desert Wind between Los Angeles and Las Vegas was canceled in 1997 because of low ridership.

It’s interesting that Amtrak’s route was done away with in the cheap-gas 1990’s. With any luck, a high speed route could bring these riders back. One of the issues with rail travel in the United States seems to be just getting people to realize that it’s there as a viable option. Hopefully a highly visible hubbub about futuristic train technology will do the trick along this route.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, United States High Speed Rail, , ,

7 Responses

  1. Jim Churchill says:

    The Desert Wind was a Chicago-Los Angeles train that served one of the most popular destinations in the West, Las Vegas, and it certainly did not lack for passengers. It started in Chicago as a 3-in-one train that, by splitting and combining in Denver, Salt Lake City and Ogden, provided travelers with a myriad of trip possibilities, say Lincoln, NE-Pocatello, ID or Carson City, NV-Cheyenne, WY. This service also served the big end terminals of San Francisco-Oakland, Portland-Seattle, LA and Chicgo and points East!
    In an ill-fated effort to save Amrak to “profitability,” by removing routes or (more likely, to satisfy political ideologues)and to kill it by lopping off vital limbs one -by-one, the Mercer Group consultants only succeeded in removing travel options for millions by putting Americans and other travelers on the road or into planes. The current bellyaching and true hardships of $4 gas is one of the results. Didn’t help avoid war either.

  2. Larry Blow says:

    There are three other projects that are set to receive funds under this bill, too.

    Language in the agreed-to House bill, H.R. 19955, sent to the President included the following:

    “Of the amounts made available to carry out this section for
    a fiscal year, the Secretary [of Transportation] shall allocate–
    (1) 50 percent to the Nevada department of transportation who shall cooperate with the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission for the MAGLEV project between Las Vegas and Primm, Nevada, as a segment of the high-speed MAGLEV system between Las Vegas, Nevada, and Anaheim, California; and
    (2) 50 percent for existing MAGLEV projects located east of the Mississippi River using such criteria as the Secretary deems appropriate.’.”

    Item (2) above refers to the three existing high-speed maglev projects in Baltimore-Washington, Pittsburgh and Atlanta-Chattanooga. The three are to split up the remaining $45 million according to yet-to-be-determined criteria to come from DOT and the Federal Railroad Administration.

  3. Allan says:

    They need to quit doing endless studies and start turning some dirt somewhere. How many times can you study a project? Just start building it one section at a time.

  4. While the Maglev sounds very interesting, one option that also should be explored is a public-private partnership of double-tracking much more of the Union Pacific line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

    The old Amtrak route took 7-8 hours to get between two destinations that could be driven in 5-6.

    I’m sure UP is in no hurry to share their crowded rails but could probably be convinced to if they had more capacity (that not only cut down on the time a passenger train would take in transit but also speed up UP trains).

    Another problem is streamlining the environmental process. The same environmentalists that want everyone out of their cars make is almost impossible to build anything across a desert landscape the characterize as “fragile.”

    Double tracking a single-track rail line should not require an environmental impact statement and would speed up rail development that in the longer run would be better for the environment.

    Ted Newkirk
    Managing Editor

  5. Joshua Skolnick says:

    What is the energy usage and cost of construction of maglev versus conventional electrified HSR? And why have the Germans dumped maglev and the French have not even considered it. Could it be that the technology is simply too new, too gee-whiz, too expensive and too much of an energy hog?

    The Bush administration (regime) seems to be enamored of somewhat pie in the sky gee whiz technologies such as fuel cell automobiles that will take years to realize, if at all, while other measures such as efficiency, and proven or easily built off the shelf technologies (electric cars, electric rail, hybrids and plug-in hybrids are ignored). Same with rail technology. By funding maglev and fuel cell car research that will take many years to be implemented, Bush regime can crow that they are actually doing something. It seems to me to be more political than anything else. By the time these pie in the sky technologies are implementable, the economy will be crushed by peak oil and these measures will be unaffordable, while the off the shelf mitigation measures which we could be building now would help Americans become weaned off of cars and airplanes as they exist today.

  6. Allan says:

    Ted – It depends on what you want. If you want speed, then it’s maglev. If a 79-mph train is good enough then save the money that would be spent on HSR or maglev. Let Amtrak do the track and own it – Of course that is assuming that the UP route can be easily double-tracked and that they’re willing to share. But with the rail-freight business booming, they may not be so willing to give expansion room for Amtrak. I know my city found that out the hard way when they wanted to use a local track or share the ROW for light rail and the train company nixed that idea.

    Josh – I’m doing this off the top of my head and memory. First of all, costs all depend on terrain. OK, having said that, in the all else being equal category, I believe maglev edges out HSR on construction costs … but you can call it even. However, on the operating and maintenance side, maglev wins hands down.

    As for the TGV, it is important to note that the TGV can only achieve high speeds safely when running on specially-designed tracks. Old track has to be replaced with new track known as LGV3. Altho the TGV trains can use existing track, they cannot travel at full speed on the old tracks.

    The French are trying to sell them so as to spread out their costs; you don’t seriously think they’d give it up for maglev … They have way too much invested in the TGV in both money and national pride … They especially won’t give it up for technology developed by the Germans.

    HSR is at the zenith of its technology while maglev is just beginning. Given the long construction time, etc., you’ll be putting in ancient technology by the time this is finished if you use HSR.

    As for the fuel cells and hybrids, etc. … Why would you expect Bush to put money into hybrid technology that is already being done quite rapidly by the private sector? That would be a silly duplication and wasteful spending. Or do you also expect the gov’t to build the cars?

    Any type of expensive endeavor like this needs bi-partisan support. You won’t get that by bashing one republocrat or the other.

  7. Phil Studer says:

    Technology keeps advancing, Lets use it to improve MagLev cost effectiveness. NASA developments, never commerialized, can produce a better system and make it affordable. Permanent magnet suspension offers operational efficiency and safety- its always on !
    DC motors are proven most suitable traction motor for electric vehicles since the days of Interurban streetcars. NASA motors allow a passive track with field source (PM) and armature on the vehicle. Track costs 1/10th powered track and half LIM which doesnt have good acceleration or dynamic braking to recover energy.
    Contact Innovative Transportation Systems Corp. San Diego

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