Death of maglev train likely to hurt Vegas more than SoCal


*logoFor nearly 30 years, politicians in Southern Nevada and Southern California have promised to deliver high-speed transportation between the two areas, turning the four-hour Las Vegas-Los Angeles trek (outbound Vegas travel can reach up to nine hours on holiday weekends) into a 90-minute jaunt.

Over the years, the form of transport changed, from a maglev (short for magnetic levitation) concept to a current proposal for a privately financed steel-wheel train. After 30 years, we're still no closer to train trips between the Strip and Disneyland.

With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's doomsday prediction for maglev's future, the prospects for high-speed transportation between the regions appears as likely as Vegas being voted America's most wholesome city.

Reid (D-Nev.) recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper that he's had it with the maglev's delays. "Maglev is going nowhere," Reid said, adding it was an idea whose time he hoped had come, "but it hasn't. ... I have personally arranged the appropriation of millions and millions of dollars, and it has gone to pay salaries and studies."

This comes after Reid allocated $45 million to the California-Nevada Super Speed train project; now he said the money would be distributed elsewhere.

Reid had hoped the maglev project could qualify for additional funds from the $8 billion earmarked for high-speed rail projects in the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (also known as the stimulus plan).

Maglev officials told the Review-Journal that losing $45 million would hurt but wouldn't derail the project. They plan to apply for stimulus funding.

Las Vegas tourism continues to be the biggest loser in the equation. In 2008, Southern Californians made up one quarter of the city's 37.4 million visitors, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Since 2006, Southern Californians have annually spent between $8 billion and $10 billion in Las Vegas, nearly a quarter of all visitor spending, tourism data show.

Growth in both regions has made the 235-mile commute between Las Vegas and Los Angeles that much more arduous, and billions spent by both states on upgrades the past 15 years haven't helped all the much.

Traffic jams often stretch for miles. The worst area is from Primm at Nevada's state line to Barstow, Calif.: during holidays, the 113-mile stretch is often backed up for hours.

With Reid pulling his support for maglev and doubts about private venture Desert Xpress' ability to raise $4 billion in this recession, interstate traffic could get worse before it gets better.


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