Las Vegas Sun

June 16, 2019

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Neighborhood association slams DesertXpress rail plan

DesertXpress

An artist’s rendering of a train on the XpressWest high-speed rail line, formerly DesertXpress.

A Southern Nevada rural neighborhood organization has sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration calling the proposed DesertXpress high-speed rail plan "a complete farce" that would jeopardize the lifestyle of the area.

The Dean Martin Rural Neighborhood Preserve Association sent a 12-page packet to the agency outlining concerns about financial obligations, exaggerated ridership and job creation projections, potentially adverse effects on McCarran International Airport, safety, land use and sound issues.

Several criticisms listed in a cover letter by association Vice President Heidi Magee enumerated complaints that have been made for months about DesertXpress, others were specifically related to the nearly 100 residences in the neighborhoods off Dean Martin Drive between Cactus and Wigwam avenues.

“We hope these areas of concern will prompt the appropriate attention and questions necessary for a project of such magnitude,” Magee’s letter said. “We believe this project is not good for Clark County, the state of Nevada or its citizens. This project appears to be a complete farce, which should be scrutinized and addressed with great urgency and concern. We respectfully request that you do not provide funding for the DesertXpress high-speed passenger train.”

Magee said she sent the information to the FRA, and to the offices of Sen. Dean Heller, Rep. Joe Heck and two Clark County commissioners.

“It started with realizing how badly it was going to affect our neighborhood, but the more we looked at it, the more we realized how it was going to affect Las Vegas and the entire state,” Magee said in an interview.

DesertXpress Enterprises has applied for a $4.9 billion federal loan to build the $6 billion project, a 185-mile dual-track line between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif., that eventually would tie in to the California high-speed rail system with a 50-mile extension to Palmdale, Calif. The loan is being requested through the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program.

Representatives of DesertXpress had no comment on the neighborhood concerns.

Several public comment periods were scheduled when DesertXpress first proposed a high-speed line linking Las Vegas to Southern California. The neighborhood association became concerned after an environmental report was approved showing the best route option would take the line north along Interstate 15 to one of two stations just off the highway. Depending on the alignment, that route could be within 50 feet of homes in the neighborhood.

The association published 42 bullet points of concern within 10 categories in its report. Some of the highlights:

• The association says worldwide, no private commercial high-speed railroad is profitable. It said several states’ governors have stopped projects or rejected loans because of the possibility of high operating costs.

• Although Sen. Harry Reid, who supports DesertXpress, has said 80,000 jobs would be directly or indirectly created by the proposal, a federal environmental impact statement says it would generate just over 700 permanent jobs, 70 of which would be in Nevada.

• The DesertXpress ridership study was conducted more than five years ago with optimistic projections. The association cited Amtrak, Megabus and the Las Vegas Monorail as having similar optimistic projections that never materialized.

• The association questions whether Las Vegans would take the train to Victorville only to rent a car there to continue the journey to Southern California.

• The association also rehashed Reid’s withdrawal of support for a maglev project to get behind the DesertXpress, which was backed by Republicans for Reid organizer Sig Rogich, a supporter of the train.

• The environmental impact statement said an elevated track would affect one of McCarran International Airport’s east-west runways.

• The proposed rail line does not conform to a land-use plan along the Dean Martin corridor. The west side of that corridor is designated for rural neighborhood preservation.

• The document questions whether trains on tracks elevated 50 to 85 feet above ground would be affected by high winds and whether the pillars elevating the track would be a safety hazard on the highway below.

• The association said a 4-foot barrier would not contain the sound of the moving train, especially if the tracks are elevated.

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