While some Californians question the need for high-speed rail between L.A. and the Bay Area, a deal has been signed to plan for a connection to a proposed high-speed rail service to Las Vegas, it was reported today.
Representatives of a private company with plans for a 150-mile-per-hour rail link from Southern California to Las Vegas have signed an agreement with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority to plan to tie in to the California High Speed rail system.
The high-speed tracks would run down the center of a proposed Route 138 freeway across the Antelope Valley, which would replace a road known as "blood alley" for its frequent deadly crashes.
"Vegas Inc." reported that the deal was signed by MTA Chairman Michael Antonovich, an L.A. County Supervisor who represents the Antelope Valley.
"DesertXpress" has won federal and state permission to build a high-speed rail line from Victorville to the Strip. The business concept has been that Southern Californians would drive to Victorville, park there, and take the 90-minute express trip to Vegas rather than drive on crowded, hot and congested Interstate 15.
The $6.9 billion Nevada link would add double tracks to the median of Interstate 15 for much of the trip. It would be privately-financed but would require federal budget guarantees, in effect a federal subsidy, to be built.
The White House has been reluctant to approve the loans, because the train tracks would end at Victorville.
California plans to connect L.A. and the Bay Area, and bypass large mountains along Interstate 5 by routing its new tracks via Lancaster. This week's deal is to plan a 50-mile link across the flat, vacant desert from Lancaster to Victorville, allowing DesertXpress trains to plug into the California system to reach L.A. or the Bay Area.
The $68 billion California High Speed Rail project, however, has been bogged down in political battles in Sacramento, and right of way disputes in the Bay Area and Central Valley. Some rail proponents say the high speed trains are falling victim to opposition to President Barack Obama's embracing of the technology, while opponents decry it as a costly boondoggle.
Antonovich is a conservative Republican, and was quoted as giving both rail projects a ringing endorsement.
"We really need to move forward on this," Antonovich reportedly told the Las Vegas business newsletter Vegas Inc. "This project is a loan, so the money is paid back and it keeps it in the United States and benefits American citizens."