By Miguel Gonzalez
(Victorville)—A giant step toward the construction of the high speed train that will connect Victorville and Las Vegas was cleared yesterday when the U.S. Department of Transportation cleared the developers of DesertXpress to start the preliminary engineering process.
DesertXpress is a $6 billion, 186-mile high-speed rail project that would link Las Vegas with Victorville, making it easier for tourists to transport in between Nevada and California in about an hour and 20 minutes according to officials with DesertXpress.
The approval, known as a record of decision, is the final step in a long process of preparing an environmental impact statement on the project estimated to bring around 55,000 jobs to California, most of them in the High Desert while bringing an estimated 32,000 jobs to Nevada.
Nevada Senator Harry Reid, a big supporter of the project, said he was pleased with the record of decision.
“Today’s announcement is about one thing: creating good paying jobs right here in Nevada,” said Reid. “This major step forward for the privately-sponsored DesertXpress Project will create more than 32,000 jobs in southern Nevada and boost our economy by providing another way for tourists to visit and enjoy this great state.”
Victorville Mayor Ryan McEachron said the record of decision puts his city even closer to creating well paying jobs for many residents who currently have to travel to the Los Angeles basin for work.
“It’s a wonderful achievement for Victorville and the High Desert. I was very glad to hear of the record of decision,” McEachron said. “Locally, we have some of the highest unemployment and to see those jobs comeback to the region is very important to the recovery of our area.”
McEachron also pointed out that the impact of DesertXpress goes beyond economics, it will also bring a better quality of life to residents. “The fact that we will have those types of jobs is going to improve quality of life. Families will be closer to each other and instead of spending money in other areas the will pump that money into local economy, helping small businesses as well. The ripple effect is huge for our region and is it very exciting and something am looking forward to as mayor.”
Barstow City Manager Curt Mitchell told High Desert Daily the city is ready to work with DesertXpress representatives to generate jobs.
“We want those jobs in the area, so we will certainly help in any way we can.”
stated that DesertXpress will help put Victorville into the worldwide map.
“When you think that this is the first high speed rail project in the United States, people all over the world will look at this achievement and they will say Victorville and Las Vegas made it work for DesertXpress.” “ I believe that the second step for the train should be heading west and also connect to Palmdale and with the California rail system because it is a natural connection point.”
Source: Office of Senator Harry Reid.
The DesertXpress Project will connect Las Vegas to Victorville in Southern California, and later the California high-speed rail system.
A UNLV Report states that the DesertXpress Project would produce an estimated 17,469 primary jobs and 16,432 secondary jobs in Clark County over three years by 2013.
A Report by Inland Empire Economist John Husing estimates that 55,000 jobs will be created in Southern California.
· Twenty-six percent of all visitors to Las Vegas come from Southern California.
· The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Federal Railroad Administration is the lead agency for the DesertXpress EIS process, working with the Federal Highway Administration, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Surface Transportation Board and the applicant, DesertXpress Enterprise, LLC.
· The NEPA process considers the environmental impacts of a proposed action in consultation with appropriate Federal, State, and local authorities, and the public. Environmental reviews consider reasonable alternatives to the proposed action, including “no action,” and identify potential mitigation measures. Relevant environmental impacts are identified and discussed.
· A Record of Decision (ROD) is the final step in the NEPA process. It formally states the decision of the federal agency on the project and identifies the selected alternative, alternatives considered, and the required mitigation plans and monitoring commitments.