Sunday Guest Column
DesertXpress is the nation’s first all new, exclusive passenger-only interstate high speed passenger railroad, linking Las Vegas and Southern California, with the first phase terminal station located in the city of Victorville. This first phase of the project will cost approximately $5 billion. Being developed entirely without using limited taxpayer dollars, all costs for this project will be funded directly by the member companies of DesertXpress Enterprises and its investor partners. The project is completing its formal environmental clearance this year and construction is scheduled to begin early next year.
This project has been in the development, design and public approval process for over eight years now. The construction time for two new tracks from Las Vegas to Victorville will be about three years, followed by about one year of system installation and train operational testing, with over 50,000 worker years of employment occurring during the construction phase.
The second phase of DesertXpress is being planned to follow the same route as the proposed new E220 highway to the SR 14 to connect with the California High Speed Rail network in the vicinity of Palmdale. The environmental clearance for this second phase needs to be completed as rapidly as possible so the phase one construction team can be kept in place and continue working to save money and boost the California economy with jobs on a project that will connect Victorville and Nevada to the entire state through the California high speed rail project.
In addition to the tremendous boost that our economy in the High Desert communities will receive during the construction phase, especially in Barstow and Victorville, the system’s operational and maintenance headquarters will be in Victorville. Thus, Victorville also will get over 500 permanent, well paying jobs and potentially, several thousand retail positions in the area of the train station. This is an incredible opportunity, with the private sector kick starting what will be tens of billions of dollars for our already committed high speed rail line to system in California. It will put added pressure on the State to speed up the permitting and environmental process for the extension to Palmdale and the first leg from there to downtown Los Angeles, and bring create thousands of additional jobs into a new industry for California.
FIRST IN THE NATION
Why shouldn’t California be the one to build the first high speed trains for the rest of the country? Victorville should strive to attract the first manufacturing of the country’s high speed trains to the SCLA. We already have over 4,000 good jobs currently at SCLA, at a site zoned for such manufacturing, with great rail and freeway access and a populace that has the required skills.. Victorville has planned for the development of the station and operations base through our recent adoption of the Specific Plan for the Northern Triangle area where the station will be located, and a manufacturing base at SCLA also would be completely consistent with the Specific Plan.
Why Victorville as the first Southern California hub? I-15 narrows at Victorville and then again at Barstow, such that the drive across the Mojave Desert leads to frequent lengthy delays due to congestion, and even closures due to serious accidents. Approximately 90 percent of the Southern California residents who visit Las Vegas each year do so by driving on I-15, and virtually all of them drive right past Victorville, which is within one hour drive of over 5 million people and less than 2 hour drive to over 23 million people. Other alternatives are too costly and would require untold billions in taxpayer public funding. Significant door-to-door time saving can be achieved with the use of a high speed train traveling from Victorville to Las Vegas in about 80 minutes.
Victorville also wins because of the high cost to build a line into the L.A. basin and the opportunity to connect with the Basin through the California High Speed Rail network in Palmdale. The time saving for a 2 or 3 day visit to Las Vegas would be 4 to 10 hours as compared to driving.
How will people coming from Nevada to visit Southern California get from the station to their destination? The station in Victorville is planned as a true multi-modal facility with connections to all local and regional forms of transportation, including rental cars. At the Las Vegas end, their station also will be a multi-modal terminal, including RTC buses, resort shuttles, taxis, rental cars and a proposed extension of the Las Vegas Monorail. For added convenience, Southern Californians will be able to check into your Las Vegas hotel room in Victorville and check your luggage through to your room.
I believe DesertXpress provides unprecedented job opportunities for many Victor Valley residents and is a clear example of the positive ideas we need to come up with to return this state to better financial times through private initiative and public sector cooperation.
Mayor pro tem Victorville