America’s playground has always had one major problem – location.
Las Vegas sits along the I-15 corridor in Nevada, approximately four hours from the Los Angeles metropolitan area. With over a quarter of the city’s visiting entertainment-enthusiasts originating from Southern California, Las Vegas officials have been looking for ways to streamline transportation to the region, as the I-15 grows increasingly congested and would-be travelers find themselves dissuaded by increased travel-times and traffic headaches. With Amtrak’s closing of the only operating rail line more than 15 years ago, Sin City has been largely inaccessible by anything without wings or four wheels.
DesertXpress stands to change all that, with a proposed 188-mile high-speed rail line running along the I-15. The project boasts an impressive 80-minute travel time, with speeds reaching 150 mph and trains departing every hour (or up to every 15 minutes on heavy traffic days). The catch? A nearly $7 billion dollar price tag that has spiraled nearly 85 percent over the last few years.
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The project began as $3.5 billion, privately-funded proposal, but in four years’ time has nearly doubled with the company now looking for taxpayer support via recently-expanded government programs looking to invest in high-speed infrastructure projects. Currently, the U.S. only has one operating high-speed rail project – Amtrak’s Acela Express, running from Boston to Washington, D.C. Several other rail projects, including another in California, are also struggling to find the financing to break ground.
Other issues surrounding the Southern California/Las Vegas corridor include controversy over proposed California-side terminal station, which is planned for Victorville – a relatively unknown, somewhat out-of-the-way city on the fringe of the Los Angeles metro area. Many remain unconvinced that ticket sales (about $110 for a roundtrip) will cover the rapidly inflating construction costs.
Construction of the proposed line, planned to hug the existing I-15 route, would bring much needed jobs and revenue to both California and Nevada – along with a more comfortable ride back for hung-over weekend revelers.
More detailed analysis of the project, along with hopes and hiccups, can be found at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.