Developers cleared to start DesertXpress engineering

An artist’s rendering of a train on the XpressWest high-speed rail line, formerly DesertXpress.

The U.S. Transportation Department has given the green light to developers of DesertXpress to begin preliminary engineering for the $6 billion, 186-mile high-speed rail project that would link Las Vegas with Victorville, Calif.

The approval, known as a record of decision, is the final step in the arduous process of preparing an environmental impact statement on the controversial project.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office issued a news release Tuesday announcing the record of decision.

This “announcement is about one thing: creating good-paying jobs right here in Nevada,” the Nevada Democrat said in the release. “This major step forward for the privately sponsored DesertXpress project will create more than 32,000 jobs in Southern Nevada and boost our economy by providing another way for tourists to visit and enjoy this great state.”

The announcement comes days before an anticipated House vote in which Republicans have vowed to divert $1.5 billion earmarked for high-speed rail projects to Midwest flood relief.

Such a move could deliver a financial blow to the California High Speed Rail Authority, which is counting on federal funding to help develop a rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco and Sacramento.

DesertXpress officials are counting on extending their line from Victorville to the California system with a 50-mile link west to Palmdale. Currently, that’s the only plan in place for passengers to travel between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Critics have ripped Victorville as a terminus of the DesertXpress route, saying Southern Californians wouldn’t park their cars there to ride the train and Las Vegans wanting to go to Southern California would have to rent cars to continue their journey.

The Federal Railroad Administration has overseen the environmental review process, which began in 2006. The process was complicated because the route crossed land administered by the Federal Highway Administration, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Surface Transportation Board, and each agency had to sign off on the plan.

The twin-track route would run primarily within the Interstate 15 right-of-way, with trains reaching speeds of about 150 mph. Company officials have estimated ticket prices to average $50 each way. An estimated 26 percent of Las Vegas visitors come from Southern California.

A UNLV report says the DesertXpress project would produce an estimated 17,469 primary jobs and 16,432 secondary jobs in Clark County by 2013.

The project also is expected to result in 50,000 jobs in Southern California’s San Bernardino County.

DesertXpress officials said they were encouraged by the publication of the record of decision, which would enable the Federal Railroad Administration to review a $5.9 billion federal loan application.

In an emailed statement, a representative of the company said, “With the continued support of federal, state and local leaders, DesertXpress is committed to becoming our country’s first true high-speed rail line.”

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  1. I am one of the first that would jump in for anything that is good for Las Vegas but I am still having trouble believing this is going to work by it ending in Victorville or Palmdale.

    If it went on into the San Fernando Valley or L.A. I would have more faith in it.

    Seems to me this is to much like our monorail that does not go downtown or to the airport. Good idea but did not go far enough to work.

    30,000 Jobs is a good thing but not if it fails.

  2. This sounds like it will make as much sense as a monorail that doesn't go to the airport.

  3. I am concerned about the planned location for the train stops - but unlike those who hate on this idea because right wing hate radio told them to, I am willing to support it because a. it creates jobs b. it sustains jobs c. it is sorely needed.

    I've traveled the world and ridden on the TGV in France and the Bullet in Japan. It's safe, enjoyable, reliable, affordable transportation and the USA is becoming like a third-world country when it comes to infrastructure. Let's start building stuff again.

  4. I have lived all over the US and seen or been involved in many job projects that project thousands. These jobs rarely ever come, and the ones that do are often very temporary and employ people from out of the area.

    The recent solar plant is a perfect example, they promised lots of jobs, there was less than 250, they said they would do a lot for the Nevada economy, only the majority of the workers came from outside Nevada, they said the jobs would last, they did not, now there are only a few people working there.

    30,000 jobs? Doing what exactly? Standing every 50 yards along the track? And who is going to drive more than half way to LV, then stop find a parking lot, take a shuttle to the train station, wait in lines, pay fees, hope the train is on time dragon your luggage then drag it all over once you get to LV, rent a car or take a cab, or worse a bus dragging your stuff around when you could have taken your car and skipped a lot of the time wasters and costs?

    If this does not go all the way into central CA or other areas deep into the state people are not going to ride it after the early novelty wears off.

    The 30,000 jobs is a typical hype to sell it to the tax payers to get at your money.

    Really want to help people, just give 30,0000 people the $196,000 and see how they spend! That would boost the economy far more than this waste will do.

  5. Quiet all you haters!!! Finally, a privet investor with enough tenacity to keep this going. Wish I knew who it was so I could make some money on this deal".

  6. It should be noted, USMC6591, that this is a private venture and not taxpayer funded. The company is seeking a government loan, but DesertXpress Enterprises has been very clear about not seeking tax dollars.

  7. "This sounds like it will make as much sense as a monorail that doesn't go to the airport."

    boftx -- excellent point! Too bad Senator Reid and all the other cheerleaders

    "30,000 jobs? Doing what exactly? Standing every 50 yards along the track?"

    michaelmm -- right, it's not like they're going to hand them shovels.