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Airport officials pin hopes on JetTrain

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- A revolutionary high-speed train that generates its own electricity with a jet engine and reaches speeds of at least 150 mph could be in place years before a long-awaited magnetic train system could connect Southern California and Las Vegas, the San Bernardino County Sun reported.

The jet train would be 80 percent cheaper to build and 20 percent lighter than any other full-size passenger train, and unlike the Maglev, which has been talked about for a couple of decades, it could be running in a few years, officials said.

"It (the jet train) can work because it doesn't have to have the wires and can run on conventional track,' said Newport Beach deal-maker Buck Johns. 'The doggone Maglev is the future of transportation in the 21st century because of its unbelievable speed, but it's so expensive.'

Bombardier Transportation, an international company based in Montreal, Canada, showed its prototype JetTrain to officials from Victorville's Southern California Logistics Airport at Union Station in Washington, D.C., in October.

The airport would be a perfect location for a park-and-ride terminal that would let Southern Californians cut hours off driving time to Las Vegas, said Johns, who was instrumental in bringing the 750-megawatt High Desert Power Project to the airport.

The JetTrain program was launched in 1998 as a public-private partnership between Bombardier Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

The JetTrain locomotive is powered by an onboard jet derived from a Pratt & Whitney PW 150 engine, which replaces the traditional diesel engine in most locomotives.

The new train, which is designed to offer the speed and acceleration of electric trains without the cost of building electrified rail lines, meets all North American standards for high-speed rail, according to Bombardier information.

Officials claim the locomotive is 20 percent lighter than a conventional diesel model, has twice the acceleration, produces 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and beats federal noise standards.

The Maglev's advantage over the JetTrain is significant, however: The Maglev should reach speeds of more than 310 mph.

But even supporters of the Maglev project estimate it could cost $12 billion to build, using lots of public funding. The JetTrain system could be built for $1.5 billion, Victorville Mayor Mike Rothschild said.

Johns said the passenger fare would have to be about half of a typical airplane ticket. And he hopes Nevada will help fund the JetTrain project, since 40 percent of Las Vegas visitors come from Southern California. Rothschild, who witnessed the JetTrain's debut in Washington, said congressmen Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, and Buck McKeon, R-Victorville, have already been informed of the proposed JetTrain. Both are looking for alternative ways to move traffic along the Interstate 15 corridor, Rothschild said.

"Absolutely both can coexist... and who's to say you can't haul freight on that train?' Rothschild said. "I don't see the Maglev as a competitor at all. It's the train of the future for this century. It's not really a question of 'if.' The only question is how soon, and at what cost?'

The Southern California Association of Governments just contributed $125,000 in Measure I gas-tax money to help fund a study on the Maglev by the Nevada Super Speed Train Commission.

Bombardier manufactures seven high-speed locomotives and participated in the development of high-speed rail systems in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, China and Spain.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

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