Friday, January 15, 2010

Let's first start off with todays news from the Las Vegas Sun.... DesertXpress prepared to build; Maglev & Monorail extension on hold. "When I last talked with Tom Stone, president of DesertXpress, it was hoped that all the environmental paperwork would be completed by the end of 2009 and that construction would begin on the train in the late first quarter or early second quarter. The public comment period on the company’s environmental documents ended in May and various government agencies have been working on firming up the final route since the company had several alternatives on various parts between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif. Several “avoidance alternatives” were generated so that the train route could be kept away from culturally significant landmarks and environmentally sensitive sites. The train also is being routed away from the site of a planned solar energy station. Because of the necessity of engineering the alternative routes, the start date for construction is slightly behind the initial plan. But Stone has no doubt that 2010 will be “the year of the train,” even though he’s reluctant to predict a groundbreaking date just yet. In additional Xpress news it appears that the system is trying to connect to Palmdale via Victorville and the California High Speed Rail System. "The other big news for DesertXpress is that representatives of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, seeing the opportunity of connecting the Las Vegas-Victorville link with that state’s planned rail system, are seeking stimulus money for links for Palmdale, Calif., Los Angeles and Anaheim. The logical next step would be to work on a track between Victorville and Palmdale, a process that could take years since it would require an environmental assessment. But because the California group is pressing ahead on the Palmdale link, there’s optimism that there would be a coordinated effort to speed up a Victorville-Palmdale route. Stone hopes work could progress so that construction could be under way by the time the Las Vegas-Victorville system opens in 2012." MAGLEV NEWS...from the same article.... "Neil Cummings, who has been working for years to get the maglev project on track, was excited about his chances late last summer when it appeared his company was on the verge of getting started with some of the environmental approvals and engineering needed to build the first leg from Las Vegas to Primm. But since July, there’s been a disconnect that has left the maglev waiting at the station. Last July, the Federal Railroad Administration approved the Nevada Transportation Department’s scope of work for the use of $45 million authorized by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users legislation. Cummings said required matching funds have been committed by American Magline Group and the money would be used to obtain environmental approvals, raise construction spending and begin work on the Las Vegas-Primm segment. The state Transportation Department is awaiting the issuance of a contract by the Railroad Administration, and in August Administrator Joseph Szabo wrote a letter to Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, a key member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, indicating that the contract would be issued “very soon.” The state and the Super Speed Train Commission then applied for stimulus money to complete the full corridor, from Las Vegas to Anaheim. The indication that the contract seemed close to completion prompted the Nevada governor’s office to issue a news release in September announcing that the maglev was on its way. But that was in September. The Transportation Department and Cummings haven’t heard anything from the Railroad Administration since. “I’ve never been so frustrated in my life,” Cummings said. “There’s been no explanation of a hang-up, so I don’t know where it’s at."" Jan11th Nevada governor Jim Gibbons appointed the following people to the CNSSTC (california nevada super speed train commission. Gov. Jim Gibbons has appointed state Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, Las Vegas Councilman Ricki Barlow and Reno businessman Ed Bayuk to the commission, formed in 1986 by the legislatures of California and Nevada. “We’re very pleased by the addition of these three new appointees from Gov. Gibbons’ office,” Commission Chairman Bruce Aguilera said in a statement issued after the appointments. “They will be a great asset to us, helping get us closer to the construction phase of the maglev train that will be a boon to business and building trade members in Southern Nevada and California.” continued.... "Progress on the maglev project has been stalled by the lack of a scope-of-work contract from the Federal Railroad Administration. FRA officials told American Magline Group executives last summer that they were on the verge of issuing the contract which would enable the company to proceed on engineering and developing an environmental assessment on the 40 miles of the route between Las Vegas and Primm." Las Vegas Monorail News.... Bankruptcy Chapter 11 was filled Jan 13. "The other train infrastructure important to Las Vegas tourism is the much-maligned Las Vegas Monorail. "The only good news about the monorail is that it makes enough money to pay for all its operational expenses. But the bad news is that it can’t pay the debts on the money borrowed to build the 3.9-mile system. That point was driven home Jan. 13 when the monorail company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to reorganize its finances. The monorail will continue to operate, but things have gone from bleak to dismal. The monorail is coming off a busy few days during the Consumer Electronics Show. Unfortunately, conventions with attendance of more than 100,000 don’t come around often enough to give the monorail the ridership boosts it needs to pay all its bills. Although critics of the monorail continue to circle like vultures, the operators of the system maintain its operation is a benefit to the community — it takes cars off the roads that contribute to poor air quality and traffic congestion. Some critics are calling for the monorail to be dismantled. There’s an untapped fund available to remove the pillars and tracks if the decision is ever reached to shut it down. Now that the company is bankrupt, I expect the voices to grow even louder to close the doors, even though taxpayers aren’t on the hook for the monorail’s horrible financial performance. Monorail spokeswoman Ingrid Reisman said the focus of the monorail is to operate the system as efficiently and as effectively as it can. That doesn’t include any kind of plan to extend the monorail to McCarran International Airport, which, most critics agree, would make the system far more functional and possibly build enough ridership to make the debt payments. But for now, survival is the objective, not growth, and construction isn’t in the cards. That’s unfortunate, since I have long maintained the reason the Las Vegas Monorail isn’t successful is because it’s a transportation system that isn’t finished yet. The airport link is the crucial piece that isn’t in place."