Monday, December 22, 2008

Las Vegas Maglev Gains Governors' Support

A $13 billion project to construct an ultra-fast maglev train that could whisk passengers from Anaheim, CA to Las Vegas, NV, in 86 minutes has gained the support of the governors of California and Nevada, reports the Las Vegas Sun.

“Arnold (Schwarzenegger) and I agreed to jointly work together on the project,” Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons told the newspaper. He argues the train should be a candidate for federal economic stimulus money.

The project has another important supporter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who represents Nevada. Jon Summers, a spokesman for Reid, said the project “not only makes good economic sense for the state, it makes sense from an environmental and energy perspective as well.”

Last June, Reid put $45 million in a Senate bill to fund an environmental impact statement for the project. He also asked the Government Accountability Office to prepare a feasibility study for the project, which should be out in the next three months. However, project supporters need to come up with $11.25 million in matching funds to proceed with the environmental impact statement.

Maglev trains ride on a cushion of air because powerful magnets in the track levitate them. Only a handful of commercial maglevs are in operation in China and Japan. A competing proposal calls for a high-speed train from Victorville to Las Vegas operating over conventional track.

But is the project a good candidate for the economic stimulus package now being debated in Washington? President-elect Obama has called for funding of projects that are "shovel-ready." Steve Ellis, a vice president with Taxpayers for Common Sense, a national nonpartisan budget watchdog group, pointed out that the maglev project would take a decade to build; the environmental impact study could take 18 months to two year. He argues that any economic stimulus should yield an immediate benefit.

Also, other technologies are in development that could support trains that run faster, are less expensive to build than maglev and can operate over conventional rail for the last mile to downtown terminals. I hope to be able to tell you about them in coming weeks.

3 comments:

  1. Seems to me the Las Vegas maglev project is a good candidate -- probably the best of the current lot -- for the economic stimulus package now being debated in Washington, but then again I'm a maglev proponent. Have been for more then twenty years, truth be told.

    And I'm really looking forward to hearing about the "...other technologies...in development that could support trains that run faster, are less expensive to build than maglev and can operate over conventional rail for the last mile to downtown terminals." I didn't know such technologies existed.

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  2. @ Laurence -

    conventional electric bullet trains will be running at 220mph in California by the end of the next decade. Unlike maglev, steel wheels technology has 40 years of excellent track record in Japan, France and other countries. China isn't looking to extend it maglev services beyond the 20-mile line to Shanghai airport. It is the only commercial implementation of maglev technology to date. Do you want Nevada to be the Guinea pig?

    California voters recently pledged $10 billion toward their project.

    A spur off the California system at Mojave, via Barstow to Jean and Vegas, would provide connections to 85% of California's population (and vice versa). Service from Vegas to Palmdale airport would take around 1:10h, LA Union Station 1:40h and Anaheim 2:00h. Since around 1/3 of all traffic at McCurran is with cities served by the California HSR network, there would be no need for the Ivanpah Valley relief airport.

    That land could be used for a thermal solar power plant instead. A new high voltage DC line above or next to the rail spur would enable the export of renewable electricity from Nevada to California. Conversely, high speed cargo trains could bring time-sensitive goods like priority mail, packages, fresh foods and cut flowers from California to Vegas at night.

    More here:
    http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/
    http://cahsr.blogspot.com/2008/12/arnold-schwarzenegger-jim-gibbons.html

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  3. Too bad, Rafael, we'll just never agree on the pro-HSR points you've raised.

    For one thing, Forbes.com is reporting that the Chinese are indeed looking to expand their line from Shanghai to Hangzhou (http://www.forbes.com/afxnewslimited/feeds/afx/2008/12/23/afx5857208.html) and, for another, I'd like nothing better than to have Nevada be the USA's 'guinea pig,' as you call it, for high-speed maglev technology. Apparently nobody important will accept maglev as a viable transportation option without a U.S. demonstration project that acts as a point of reference, as the German facility in Emsland has for the past 20-plus years.

    The California HSR situation is just now starting to play out. Let's see where it is in a few years.

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