Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009 | 2:08 a.m.
It is no surprise that there is fierce competition among metropolitan areas nationwide for a piece of the $8 billion in federal economic stimulus money that has been earmarked for high-speed rail development. Americans sick of sitting in bumper-to-bumper, exhaust-belching highway traffic are starved for more efficient transportation.
The Federal Railroad Administration, which will evaluate the competing proposals and distribute the money, has a tough task ahead. But we believe a new study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington public policy think tank, makes a strong case that a significant portion of that money should go toward high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Southern California.
As reported Thursday by J. Patrick Coolican in the Las Vegas Sun, the study found that a 229-mile corridor connecting Las Vegas with Los Angeles and neighboring communities is the nation’s second-busiest route for short-haul airplane travel. Among the nation’s air routes that are less than 400 miles, only the Southern California-to-Bay Area connection had more passengers than the 3.7 million who traveled between Las Vegas and Southern California over a one-year period through March.
The significance of these findings is that competition for the high-speed rail funding is limited to corridors that are no longer than 600 miles. The fact that so many people take the short flight from Southern California to Las Vegas suggests that a well-designed, fast train connecting those two metropolitan areas could be wildly popular.
That is why we have been so enthusiastic about a proposal to build a magnetic levitation train from Las Vegas to Anaheim, Calif., which would carry passengers at speeds of 300 mph — even over the congested Cajon Pass along Interstate 15.
Based on the Brookings study, we believe the railroad agency would be making a wise investment by selecting the proposed maglev project to receive some of the stimulus funding. That would help make Southern Nevada an important high-speed rail hub and fulfill President Barack Obama’s vision of an environmentally friendly transportation option that would help foster economic development.