Vegas High-Speed Rail Line Back on Track?

The concept of a high-speed rail line from Southern California to Vegas never seems to run out of steam. Now the head of the California High-Speed Rail Authority is pushing for a public-private partnership to push the development down the line.

A proposed high-speed train from Southern California to Las Vegas could operate in connection with a proposed government-owned high-speed rail connection between Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to Bloomberg.

Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said a public-private partnership could help jumpstart development of the system.

“We are not going to be a government-run railroad,” Richard said. “Our business model is that the private sector will come in and bid for the right to operate on our system.”

The bullet train would originate in San Francisco and travel to L.A. in less than three hours at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour. The concept has made few friends in Congress, and a voter-approved $10 billion ballot measure to help pay the freight with state-issued bonds has faced a court challenge. As costs have grown, voter support has diminished.

But California Governor Jerry Brown, a longtime environmentalist, is a fan of the $67.6 billion train. Brown says the train would be cheaper and more ecologically friendly than building roads and airports.

Authority officials want to work with Desert Xpress Enterprises to get it started. The company that operates as XpressWest plans a 150 mph train that would connect Palmdale, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, with Las Vegas, CEO Tony Marnell told Bloomberg. Marnell wants to get financing from the Federal Railroad Administration and repay the loan through fares of about $90 each way for a 90-minute trip.

“What we have is a robust ridership demand,” he said. “When you have that, you have revenue and that helps pay for these systems.”

“This new route would cover all of Southern California, both the inland part and the coastal area,” said Hualiang Teng, who teaches transportation planning at University of Nevada at Las Vegas. “It would have enough ridership to make money.”

Las Vegas had almost 40 million visitors last year?among the highest visitation ever recorded?with 26 percent from Southern California, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.