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A Race for Bullet Trains from So Cal to Las Vegas

Mar 04, 2010 by Sean Belk

That’s driving on the lone road, known as the Interstate 15 highway, or taking a plane.

Desert Xpress

Most people Fear and Loath the almost 300-mile trek, driving from most parts of Los Angeles.

This fear and loathing of driving to Vegas, is mainly based on the possibility of encountering heavy traffic, wear-and-tear on our cars, and for some. parking and navigating toward a strange city.

Taking a plane out of a busy airport from any local metropolis can cause just about the same trepidation for such a short flight: the cost, the luggage handling, the waiting, and the crowded terminals.

If you are planning to take a trip to Las Vegas from any destination in Southern California anytime soon, there exists mainly two practical ways to get there—aside from hitchhiking.

For the most part, people have been willing to endure the arduous travel to reap the final jackpot:

Arriving at the glitziest entertainment and tourism capital of the country. But with many people now-a-days, holding back on spending due to rising unemployment the state’s financial instability, and other economic considerations, that trip might seem a bit more of a luxury these days.


That’s why pretty soon there could be a few more options to get to Sin City, and they’re faster than driving and just as comfortable as flying.

There are two main high-cost proposals, either maglev or High Speed Rail, and they are racing against each other with competing efforts to have trains coming and going from Southern California to Las Vegas.

At such speeds, one commenter joked, “It would be hard to get a hand of poker in once you cross the Nevada border.”

But once you’re in, you’re in, and your next task is just finding nearby transportation to get to your next destination spot–i.e. you casino or large scale hotel. And with the recent drop in tourism and revenue streams for Las Vegas due to the recession seems to be even more reason why government officials such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are stepping up efforts to support attraction to having a train run there.

The question is which one, if any, is more of a sure bet?

The Desert Xpress

Desert Xpress

The first effort to roll out a flashy new High-Speed Rail train is called the Desert Xpress, as leaders of the project hope to break ground soon, and quickly secure private investors to push their construction start date to sometime this year.

Computerized models show how the 10-car trains, with a 657-seating capacity, would whisk passengers away from Victorville, Calif. to Las Vegas and back.

Desert Xpress Route

The train would travel at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour for the 184-mile distance, taking roughly 84 minutes to get there.

Ultimately, building a train station in Victorville is a starting point, according to Desert Xpress officials, which could lead to a grander vision, of having the rail system connect to Los Angeles and Orange County in the future. Palmdale has even been looked at as an even more convenient choice for lessening the driving time to the station. You can even check out its environmental review submitted to the Federal Rail Authority

The California-Nevada Interstate Maglev Project

Maglev Project

While the Desert Xpress is forcefully pushing their plans forward, the American Magline Group is side-by-side fighting to grapple support of its Vegas-Los Angeles high speed project as well.

The California-Nevada Interstate Maglev Project, uses magnetic levitation as the basis for their trains and transportation, The Maglev doesn’t run on a track at all, spans an even further distance than the proposed Desert Xpress, from Anaheim, Calif., to Las Vegas, and would travel at much more faster speeds, reaching top speeds of 311 miles per hour.

Maglev Project Route

The Maglev project, currently supported by the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission, is expected to begin construction, if funding is acquired past 2011.

According to American Magline:

The [Maglev] project will have six stations: the cities of Anaheim, Ontario, Victorville, and Barstow in Southern California, the town of Primm on the Nevada border, and the City of Las Vegas. Construction is planned in three phases, with the timing dependent upon funding availability. The last phase will be constructed from the Ontario and Primm ends to meet at Barstow. The total project length is 268 miles.

Financial Viability of the Desert Xpress

Apparently when it rains it pours when it comes to new proposals for High Speed Rail here, as it seems to be a hot ticket in California overall, as the proposal for the Desert Xpress is among another proposed line, recently announced this year that would travel from San Diego to Los Angeles to San Francisco and to Sacramento.

That plan, however, comes compete with a price tag of 2.3 billion dollars, mostly from government grants and federal stimulus dollars, courtesy from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

On the other hand, The Desert Xpress, is envisioned as a cooperative agreement for public funding, it’s mainly be backed by the private sector, eliminating the need for federal tax payer dollars.

Its many proponents have said:

The preliminary total cost for Desert Xpress is estimated to be approximately $3.5 to 4 billion, including design, construction, trains, systems, testing, and commissioning. This figure will be firmed up following the EIS process as the specific alignment alternatives are selected for each portion of the corridor. Construction of the project is estimated to take up to four years, beginning as early as 2010.

Critics of the plan, however, have cited a skeptical forecast of whether private funding will suffice for the undertaking and whether investors will bank on plans for a future rail system of this size.

California-Nevada Interstate Maglev Project

But Desert Xpress planners have cited a Sacramento Regional Research Institute report that found, the investment in public transportation infrastructure would result in over $50 billion in “total economic impact” from employment, construction and future revenue from the project. In addition, the project is expected to create more than 18,000 new direct and indirect jobs for California.

The costs of Maglev vs. High Speed Rail

There has already been a lot of talk about the expenses of the Maglev system versus High Speed Rail. A blog in favor of HSR in California reports that that a study for the SoCal Logistics Rail Authority suggests, “Maglev’s costs are going to be too high to afford.”

But planners of the California-Nevada Interstate Maglev Project have said they are going forward with their plans for the proposed Maglev train, which they say could cost about $12 billion while other sources say could cost up to $40 billion.

The bottom line is that even with competition from the Desert Xpress, the Maglev group hopes to put them out of business by sporting a quicker and less time consuming trip.

The Costs for Travelers: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

While the proposed cost for traveling on the Maglev train has yet to be released, the Desert Xpress expects the average fare for a one-way ticket to Las Vegas from Victorville, will cost $50.


There’s an ongoing debate about whether a plane would cost more than taking the train to Las Vegas. With airfares now as cheap as $160 roundtrip, it seems both ways would be comparable, if indeed the trains were already built and operable.

And although travelers would lose the advantage of having a car to drive in Las Vegas, the gas to travel by car might not cost as much, but by the time you get back paying for a mechanic could.

A Grand Vision in Economically hard Times

So, we’ll see whether taking a train or using existing modes of transportation to Las Vegas would mean “Lost Wages” or more time spent.

But if the past has anything to foretell, it’s visions and building infrastructure that lead the way in a time when the country as a whole needs them the most.

In either of the cases, Las Vegas is out there, ready to be enjoyed, as a destination, a vacation, or fulfill anything else your heart and other needs may desire.

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One Response to “A Race for Bullet Trains from So Cal to Las Vegas”

  1. Alex says:

    I drove the dreaded I-15 LA to vegas route about a month ago, and having never been to LA before I was stunned by the traffic. I am not looking forward to driving that route again.
    Let’s get this Maglev going now, because no matter what the cost, it would be a net positive for the economy of the southwest region. A big construction project like that would put a lot of people to work in a time when jobs are needed desperately, not to mention the increased flow of people and money between LA and Vegas when this is done.
    Alex´s last blog ..Have Rabbit- Will Travel My ComLuv Profile


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