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January 30, 2015

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High-speed rail competition heats up with new funding


Associated Press File

Plans for a maglev train like the one in Japan would give travelers between Las Vegas and Southern California another alternative to Interstate 15. The plan is competing with DesertXpress, which is further along in the planning process.

WASHINGTON - The competition between two proposed high-speed trains running from Las Vegas to Southern California ignited anew today after federal authorities announced $45 million for the maglev project that had lost key political support earlier this year.

Gov. Jim Gibbons backs the magnetic levitation rail project that critics say relies on a technology that is unproven in this country and too costly. He announced the federal planning funds.

The long-envisioned maglev train between Las Vegas and Anaheim suffered a setback this year when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he was pulling his support. Reid now prefers the proposed DesertXpress train -- a much cheaper alternative.

DesertXpress is backed by Nevada political guru SigRogich, a Reid supporter, and is much further along in the planning process with hopes of breaking ground on construction next year. But it too has shortcomings: Critics are skeptical of the route between Las Vegas and the California high-desert city of Victorville, some 80 miles from Los Angeles.

DesertXpress says it is a private venture that would only rely on federal government loans -- though experts say few private train lines are profitable.

Maglev would rely more heavily on federal funds, and is seeking part of the $8 billion for high-speed rail Reid helped to secure in the econmic recovery act.

Nevada's Republican Sen. John Ensign has long preferred DesertXpress.

With Gibbons behind maglev the split among Nevada's top elected officials could further complicate either project's prospects.

Nevertheless the governor welcomed the federal funds. “This project will put Nevadans to work and will help bring our transportation infrastructure into the 21st century,” Gibbons said.

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