No Money For The Maglev…Again.
By Charlie Hastings
January 28, 2010
Remember the Nevada maglev project? It’s the superfast, high-tech magnetic levitating train that can make the trip from Las Vegas to Anaheim in 81 minutes. Well, it’s back in the news, and southern Californians are once again salivating over the possibility of a railroad that can whisk them off to Las Vegas. The maglev is a wonder of engineering, to be sure, but at around $12 billion, also extremely expensive. Nevada senator Harry Reid was going to champion the cause of the next-generation train by marshaling a hefty subsidy from the federal government. And, for a while, he stuck to that conviction. Unfortunately, at least for the maglev, Harry’s enthusiasm fizzled out when a prominent republican (yes, republican) offered him a giant sum of money to incrassate his already swollen campaign chest.
The connection? The republican in question, Sig Rogich, is the main man behind the maglev’s competition, a modernized version of existing steel wheel and rail trains, called the Desert Xpress, that goes to Victorville rather than all the way to Los Angeles. (Supporters plan to connect the line to Palmdale, CA, linking Las Vegas to the California train system.) You can read about Senator Reid’s abandonment of the maglev project here.
The maglev, meanwhile, fits the model of an energy-efficient, non-polluting, highly “green” means of transportation. It’s just the type of thing that would go over with flying colors in the new green economy. In fact, an announcement was made last Thursday that 31 states would be sharing in $8 billion as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to create jobs and infrastructure. Nearly a quarter of the federal money, $2.34 billion, will go to California, with $2.25 billion going to a new high-speed system to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles and the remainder going to other rail projects in the state.
But no money will go to Nevada. Why? It depends on who you ask. Nevada governor Jim Gibbons laid the blame clearly on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, calling the senator “asleep at the switch.” Gibbons lambasted Senator Reid, saying it was “disgusting and disgraceful that Reid and Obama ignored our efforts.”
According to Reid, however, Nevada failed to get in line in the first place. Reid’s representative, Jon Summers, told a Fox network affiliate (FOX5) that Nevada’s Department of Transportation never applied for the funding. “If Jim Gibbons wants to know why Maglev didn’t get any of the $8 billion in stimulus money announced today for high-speed rail, he should look in the mirror. If anyone was asleep at the switch, it was Gov. Gibbons because his Department of Transportation failed to apply.”
The organization behind the maglev, the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission, did apply, but “only states, groups of states, interstate compacts or public agencies” could apply for funding, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation released by Reid’s office.
Of course, the fact that the Desert Xpress is the project of a major Reid campaign contributor wasn’t mentioned in the letter. Or anywhere, for that matter.