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Senate Majority Leader drops support for maglev train to Vegas

(The Associated Press circulated the following on June 9, 2009.)

LAS VEGAS — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is no longer supporting a proposal to build a magnetic levitating train between Disneyland and Las Vegas, an abrupt abandonment after years of backing the futuristic train project.

Reid spokesman Jon Summers said Tuesday that the Nevada senator has instead decided to support a competing, cheaper high-speed rail project linking Southern California to the casinos of the Las Vegas Strip.

The diesel-electric DesertXpress train would connect Victorville, Calif.—a desert town 1 1/2 hours northeast of Los Angeles—to Las Vegas and would rely largely on private funding.

Summers said the senator's decision came after a thorough review of the two proposals. The decision is based on "which one is going to be done and which one is going to be done faster," he said.

The levitating train, known as maglev, was mocked earlier this year as the "Sin Express" by Republicans in Congress critical of $8 billion in high-speed rail funding included in the economic stimulus package.

Reid has long advocated the development of high-speed rail along the increasingly clogged I-15 corridor between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Roughly 10 million Southern Californians make the 250-plus-mile drive to Las Vegas each year.

Last year, the Democrat helped secure $45 million in federal funding for maglev. Summers said that money has not been spent.

The funding was the first major allocation to maglev, although
the project has been on the drawing board for more than two decades. It is projected to cost well more than $12 billion, compared with the DesertXpress price tag of up to $5 billion.

Maglev advocates note that the DesertXpress train stops well before the population centers of Southern California, requiring travelers to drive to Victorville. It would also travel at less than half the 300 mph speed of the maglev.

DesertXpress' chief advocate is Nevada political power broker Sig Rogich, who recently was named a leader of a group of Republicans backing Reid's bid for re-election in 2010.

Summers said Rogich's political support was unrelated to Reid's decision.

"All you have to do is compare the two projects to see which one is on track to be completed sooner," he said.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

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