Monday, Feb. 5, 2001 | 10:45 a.m.
A high-tech, super-speed train from Las Vegas to the California state line could get another lease on life, an Alaska congressman said Friday.
The Clinton administration's Transportation Department on Jan. 18 gave a thumbs down to a proposal for nearly $1 billion in federal funding to build the high-speed train from Las Vegas to Primm. Instead, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said Pittsburgh or Baltimore would get the funding for the project designed to demonstrate the applicability of new "mag-lev" technology to consumer lines.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said he intends "to revisit this issue this Congress and work with the new Bush administration to promote a mag-lev program in the West."
Young is chairman of the U.S. House Transportation Committee. Another committee member, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., also has asked the Bush administration to reopen the selection process.
"The congresswoman will work with Chairman Young and the other members of the Transportation Committee to do everything in her power to keep this project alive," said Berkley spokesman Michael O'Donovan. "We're optimistic that maglev lives."
U.S. Transportation Department officials declined to comment on the record Monday, but defended the selection process as comprehensive.
Young criticized the outgoing Democratic administration for favoring the East Coast.
"I'm upset and disappointed by the 11th hour decision by the outgoing secretary," Young said in a statement. "The West Coast, with all its heavy congestion, should have a chance to alleviate traffic with a high-speed train.
"Both of Slater's projects are located on the East Coast, where costs are extremely high and land acquisition is difficult," he said. "The East Coast already has more than its fair share of rail improvement projects... Taxpayers and elected officials in the western states would like to see a rail project or two developed outside the Eastern Seaboard."
Young's statement called the Las Vegas-to-Primm project "one of the least costly and best positioned for construction," and said it would relieve gridlock on the busy Interstate 15 corridor.
Local advocates lobbied heavily for the 42-mile stretch to the California state line and refused to give up after Slater's Jan. 18 announcement that the local option was off the table.
Advocates for the Las Vegas-Primm line said they hoped incoming Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, a former California representative, would be more hospitable to the proposal.
Jack Libby, chairman of the California-Nevada Super-Speed Train Commission, a booster group for the project, said after Slater's announcement that it might be possible to get a special appropriation for the project.
The UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research said last year that the train would attract 2.3 million new visitors to the region, create 13,000 new jobs and generate $122 million in new sales, gaming and property taxes for state and local coffers.