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Calif. asks for speedy rail funding

(The San Bernardino County Sun posted the following story by Brenda Gazzar on its website on April 15.)

ONTARIO, Calif. -- Facing a shaky economy and limited federal funds, regional officials outlined their case Monday for a high-speed railroad linking Las Vegas and Southern California.

They were pitching a magnetic-levitation rail line, also called a maglev, to Rep. Joe Baca, D-Rialto, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, during a meeting at the Ontario Convention Center.

The California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission and its private partner, the American Magline Group, are trying to secure $1 billion for part of a 269-mile train system linking five airports, including Ontario International Airport and Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville.

The proposed railroad would move passengers and cargo.

Young, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he supports the project. But he added that he has received about 5,500 proposals for funding in a planned transportation bill worth up to $500 billion.

He said he believes in the project despite the high cost of magnetic-levitation technology because of the need to accommodate rapid economic and population growth in the western United States.

Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner said city officials foresee Ontario becoming a hub for high-speed rail in Southern California, where all the lines intersect.

Maglev would allow the city to become part of the tourism circuit between Las Vegas and Anaheim, he said. In addition, the Ontario-Anaheim route would make Ontario International Airport more accessible to Orange County.

"As you know, we have a lot of problems with aviation in Southern California because of lack of airports with expansion potential,' Wapner said. "At Ontario, we don't have that problem. We're looking forward to expanding out the airport to accommodate increased aviation growth in Southern California. We see maglev as becoming an integral part of the growth of that airport.'

The California-Nevada project is supported by the cities that would be affected by the project, as well as the Orange County Transportation Authority, San Bernardino Associated Governments and the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District, said M. Neil Cummings, president of the American Magline Group.

But critics question whether such a system is needed, and whether it would be worth the enormous cost. Ontario Councilwoman Debbie Acker said she does not believe a maglev would be the best use of limited federal transportation dollars.

"We have much greater pressing needs,' Acker said.

The entire Cal-Nevada project would cost roughly $6 billion to $8 billion, Cummings said. It would connect Anaheim to Las Vegas, with stops in Ontario, Victorville, Barstow and Primm, Nev.

If the $1 billion being sought for the project is not secured from the federal government, construction would likely be delayed, officials said.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

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