Las Vegas Sun

February 20, 2024

DesertXpress top executive retires from high-speed rail project

Enlargeable graphics: Maglev and DesertXpress

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The top executive of DesertXpress Enterprises, the private company that is planning to build a $5 billion high-speed rail line from Las Vegas to Victorville, Calif., has retired from full-time service on the project.

Tom Stone, president and a member of the board of directors, has worked on the project for nine years.

The company is awaiting a final environmental impact statement and records of decision on the project from the Federal Railroad Administration to begin engineering the route. Construction is expected to start next year.

Stone’s departure from the company was noted on the DesertXpress website.

“DesertXpress and its partners express our gratitude and appreciation for the nine years of dedication that Dr. Tom Stone has provided to the project serving as president and member of the board,” the site said. “His commitment, leadership and expertise has established a strong foundation setting the stage for a groundbreaking next year on the first dedicated high-speed rail project in America. We wish Tom and his family all the best in his deserved retirement.”

Stone and representatives of the company did not return telephone and e-mail inquiries.

It’s unclear who would succeed Stone as the top executive of the company, but Andrew Mack, the company’s chief operating officer, has been the No. 2 man for the organization.

Plans for the controversial project call for conventional steel-wheel trains to operate at 150 mph on dedicated tracks with passengers paying about $50 a seat one way. Trains would be able to make the 185-mile trip between Victorville and Las Vegas in about 84 minutes. Critics of the project say the train wouldn’t get the ridership it needs to support itself with Victorville as the southern terminus.

Developers chose Victorville because most passenger traffic in cars pass through the high-desert community en route to Las Vegas on Interstate 15. The DesertXpress right-of-way would be along I-15 for most of the route.

After critics ripped the Victorville end point, the company announced plans to build an extension of the line west to Palmdale, Calif., where a station for the California high-speed rail project is planned.

The project also has been criticized because Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a longtime supporter of a magnetic levitation system between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, withdrew his support and began backing DesertXpress in 2009. Reid said he was frustrated by the lack of progress on the maglev project, but critics said the switch was a result of DesertXpress investor Sig Rogich’s formation of a campaign support group months before the change in support.

DesertXpress officials have said a maglev is too expensive, but boosters of the technology say long-term costs are about the same because of higher maintenance costs for traditional rail compared with the frictionless maglev, which is propelled on a magnetic field.

The Chinese government is breaking ground next week on a new maglev line in Beijing. A commercial maglev line has been in operation in Shanghai since 2004.

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