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Backers again float plan for Las Vegas-to-Anaheim maglev train

(The Associated Press circulated the following story on June 22.)

LAS VEGAS -- Backers of an expensive high-speed train between southern Nevada and Southern California are floating tentative plans for an initial Las Vegas-to-Primm segment.

"Funding is the most important component of it," said Richann Johnson, executive assistant for the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission, a nonprofit corporation seeking to build the line.

Johnson, a city of Las Vegas economic development official, said during a public hearing Monday at Las Vegas City Hall that once people see the maglev train whisking passengers past traffic-packed Interstate 15, investors will support it.

The 40-mile initial segment to Primm, at the Nevada-California state line, is expected to cost $1.4 billion. Officials say the entire 269-mile line to Anaheim, Calif., could cost $10 billion.

Maglev trains would reach Primm in 12 to 18 minutes, and Anaheim in under 96 minutes, officials say, at speeds averaging more than 200 mph. Driving from Las Vegas to Anaheim can take four hours or more.

Project planners believe millions of riders would pay $84 for a round-trip ticket between Las Vegas and Anaheim, home to Disneyland and other attractions. Tourism officials say about one-third of Las Vegas' 35 million visitors a year come from Southern California.

Backers say the high-speed train would restore intercity passenger rail service lost when Amtrak ended Salt Lake City-to-Las Vegas-to-Los Angeles "Desert Wind" rail service in 1997.

They predict less freeway congestion and reduced air pollution because magnetic levitation trains are emissions-free. Passenger cars float a fraction of an inch above an elevated track, propelled forward by a magnetic cushion produced by electricity.

The only commercial maglev line in the world opened last year in Shanghai, China. Prototypes also operate in Germany and Japan.

Johnson rode the Shanghai and Germany trains, and said there was little comparison to traditional rail.

"It's a very smooth ride. It accelerates very quickly. There's no vibration," she said. "It's a very pleasant experience."

Congress has been considering federal financing for a maglev system somewhere in the United States. Other proposals include a 40-mile line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and a 47-mile line between Pittsburgh and its suburbs.

Supporters of the Nevada proposal hope Congress will allocate $1 billion for the Las Vegas-to-Primm line. Another $400 million could come from bonds that would be repaid by ticket revenues, Johnson said.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

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