Saturday, May 8, 2010

BIG MAGLEV NEWS ~ Nevada seek Maglev answers


In a news article from the Las Vegas Sun, the State of Nevada (both the governor, and attorney general) has sent letters to the FRA, USDOT etc.. asking for answers to the issues of releasing the $45 million that was set aside by congress in 2005 then again in 2008.

Keep in mind with previous announcements this past week for ARTIC station in Anaheim starting construction in 2011 and opening in 2013, the Maglev and HSR for CA will need to start soon on construction as ARTIC will only be a station for Metrolink/Amtrack trains for a while.

Fri, May 7, 2010 (3 a.m.)
Nevada political leaders are turning up the heat on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to find out what happened to all the money the state was promised to start building a magnetic levitation transportation system between Las Vegas and Anaheim, Calif.
Both Gov. Jim Gibbons and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who have been on opposite sides on health care legislation recently, found common ground when it came to maglev funding.
In reality, Gibbons and Cortez Masto know what happened to the money — it got rerouted to a road project at McCarran International Airport at the urging of Sen. Harry Reid, who was frustrated that little had been accomplished by maglev backers for years.
And, as everybody who has followed the recent saga of high-speed transportation knows, Reid switched allegiance from maglev to the predominantly privately financed DesertXpress high-speed rail project between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif., in June 2009.
Gibbons and Cortez Masto are now focusing their attention on the FRA, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, because the state has had communication with the rail agency as recently as last month to get some kind of an explanation about how a congressionally mandated program could be derailed.
Gibbons wrote a letter to Kevin Coates, chairman of the High Speed Rail World USA 2010 conference, which met in Washington last month, to describe the state’s frustration with the bureaucracy.
“… My state has been quite frustrated by what I’ll politely call bureaucratic delays in obtaining the release of federal funding for this most important project — funding that was specifically mandated by Congress in 2005 and again in 2008,” Gibbons’ letter said.
“Just last week, I again asked U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to help me in resolving these delays so that the Federal Railroad Administration will immediately issue a cooperative agreement to the Nevada Department of Transportation so that we can get under way with the final stages of development. And, in fact, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office just last week made a formal legal demand on the Federal Railroad Administration to issue the necessary cooperative agreements to the Nevada Department of Transportation. My understanding is that the states of Pennsylvania, Georgia and Tennessee have experienced similar funding delays,” the letter said.
Cortez Masto’s six-page letter to FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo chronicles the entire history of NDOT’s communications on the maglev project beginning with Congress’ passage of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) on Aug. 10, 2005.
Cortez Masto’s letter, copied to Gibbons, NDOT Director Susan Martinovich and LaHood, lists every delay and every administrative handoff that occurred in the state’s bid to secure $45 million in the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years.
“Because there is presently and continues to be no end in sight for the FRA’s completion of its responsibilities regarding the scope of work and cooperative agreement, NDOT seeks a date certain from you, the FRA administrator, for the FRA’s completion of its responsibilities regarding the scope of work and cooperative agreement,” Cortez Masto said near the close of her letter. “Given the lengthy delay that has occurred, it is fair that the date certain be within two weeks of the date of this letter.”
It was dated April 7.
Nevada officials weren’t the only ones applying pressure to the FRA.
Coates, a maglev supporter, issued a white paper in conjunction with the high-speed rail conference he organized describing how the FRA hasn’t kept up with the technological leaps of the rest of the world and how the rising cost of oil should be a part of the equation when determining what high-speed transportation system is best for the country.
Coates contends that it’s maglev because it runs on electricity and new construction technologies enable the power to be encased in the vehicle guideway, saving money.
The new design, developed by the Max Bogl Group, would make maglev construction costs comparable if not less than existing high-speed rail designs, he said. The Max Bogl Group is a German construction company that has been a part of Germany’s maglev development team.
“The ability to run power lines under and within guideways is a new cost-saving measure,” Coates’ paper says. “It also introduces a higher level of system reliability because the power lines are protected from severe weather events. With (high-speed rail), electrification of the line is accomplished by the installation of catenary (the overhead electrical wiring in an electrical train design), not an inexpensive proposition. In addition, HSR requires the installation of a highly reliable signaling system, something that is completely built into the maglev computerized command and control system.”
Coates concludes that the FRA needs to step up to the 21st century instead of sticking with the existing high-speed rail systems used by Amtrak in the Northeast.
“If maglev is now cheaper to build than HSR, can run in all sorts of inclement weather due to its frictionless operation and has dramatically lower operations and maintenance costs at all speeds, why would a rail operator in the United States pursue anything less?” Coates wrote. “With Amtrak running passenger rail operations in the U.S., we can only expect much less.”
Gibbons concurs.
“Please help me send a message to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration that it’s time our bureaucracy began moving as fast as these trains,” Gibbons concluded in his letter to the conference.
“After all, President Obama, when running for election in 2008, said he wanted to build the fastest train in the world right here in the United States, not just watch it go by in Shanghai. My state is ready to oblige him. What better place to demonstrate this proven new technology than Las Vegas, where 40 million visitors come each year from all over the world.”

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