In what must be considered a positive development for expanding high speed rail in the US, the route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas has been designated a federal high speed rail corridor. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood announced on the 2nd of July that the route to Las Vegas would be an extension to the California High Speed Rail Corridor, thus making it eligible for federal funding.
The line would most likely put the dagger in the Maglev rail project that has gone nowhere over the past thirty years. Despite that project being backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and President Obama, the Maglev has always been stalled because of cost concerns. A more cost effective high speed rail service via an electrified system that is connected to nearly the whole of California is something the residents of Nevada would be keen to see.
Las Vegas was envisioned as an entertainment center when gambling was legalized in 1931. The city has grown exponentially from its early roots as a business venture of the New York Mafia to the corporate casinos began to sprout up in the 1960. New buildings, ever more opulent, are being constructed on the strip today. Despite the destination receiving billions of dollars to grow, transportation links virtually have not changed. People traveling from LA take the same four hour drive (five and a half hours in traffic) featured in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Swingers.
Such a long trip through the desert is a major drawback for people who would otherwise like to get away to Vegas for the weekend. A high speed rail link connecting Las Vegas to the California corridor would cut the 275 mile journey to about an hour and twenty minutes. In casual conversations with Angelenos, there seems to be a sense of “why don’t we have this already?”
The reason such a line does not already exist has been a lack of funding. Perpetually cash-strapped California has not the money for interstate ventures and Nevada has not had the budget for the train either. Federal funding is hard to come by for this line as well. As mentioned in a previous article, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and a rash of other Republicans frown upon this project despite its obvious economic benefits. These politicians do upon on the behest of their constituents in more pious parts of the country, who frown on facilitating people having fun in Sin City. This project still needs financing.
Low-cost airline carriers pop-up again as a staunch opponent of such a line because it would stand to kill the air route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The plans are not finalized but some actors in the project are pushing for the line to not enter Los Angeles proper, but stop in Victorville. This plan would be a direct result of political wrangling and should not come to pass. High speed rail from Union Station Los Angeles to downtown Las Vegas is the most attractive route for passengers. That is the line that should be constructed as quickly as possible.
This is the 7th of a 13-part series on high speed rail in the USA. Read previous articles:
- High Speed Rail – 12 Corridors to be Stimulated
- High Speed Rail at 90 mph?! ARRA & the Northeast Corridor
- California High Speed Rail – Who will pay for $40 billion?!
- Planning High Speed Rail Line For 17 Years: The Pacific Northwest
- (Anti-)High Speed Rail: Republicans & the Gulf Coast Corridor
- Airlines & Oil Barons in Fear of High Speed Rail: The South Central Corridor
[photo credit: Christopher Chan]