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Company Bids to Build Vegas To Los Angeles Train

July 16, 1990

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ A partnership made a formal bid Monday on a $5 billion high-speed train system that would whisk riders from Southern California to the casinos of the Strip in little more than an hour.

The partnership headed by Bechtel International Inc. of San Francisco proposed the first commercial use of magnetically levitated trains that would run up to 300 mph on an about 270-mile line between Las Vegas and Anaheim.

The bid for exclusive franchise rights was hailed as a milestone for the project, which was first proposed in 1979.

″We feel we are about to revolutionize ground transportation in the United States,″ said Arnie Adamsen, chairman of the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission. ″We believe we have overcome the last true hurdle in bringing this system into being.″

Bechtel officials gave the commission a $500,000 deposit along with a three-inch-thick proposal that calls for a two-way train that would glide atop an elevated guideway running alongside existing highways between the two metropolitan areas.

The train could have commuter stops in Southern California, and Bechtel proposed possible spurs that could also eventually link the system to Palmdale, Palm Springs, Riverside and Santa Ana.

If Bechtel gets financing and overcomes other obstacles, construction would begin in 1993, with the system up and running four years later.

″We see this as a pilot system that will be the first part of a network that will eventually encompass the Southwest and the nation,″ said Erv Koenig, a Bechtel vice president.

The train would follow Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Southern California, where it would run alongside the Santa Ana River Channel into a final destination at Anaheim Stadium south of Los Angeles.

But the project faces enormous hurdles, including its huge price tag and uncertainty over whether it would attract enough riders to be profitable. Since the mid-1980s, the estimated cost of the project has risen from $2.5 billion to $5.1 billion.

Bechtel is gambling not only that it can raise the huge amount of money needed to privately finance the system, but also on the use of maglev technology.

The maglev system, which uses a magnetic field to propel the train and to elevate it one to four inches above the guideway, is being tested in West Germany but has not entered commercial use.

Before deciding whether to actually build the train, Bechtel plans to spend about 16 months on ridership studies.

A ridership survey done for the commission said an Anaheim to Las Vegas run would get a 6.5 million round trip passengers a year paying $110 a ticket.

The idea of a speedy train linking Las Vegas with the Southern California market that provides most of it 18 million tourists each year was first raised in 1979 by then-Mayor Bill Briare.

The train commission was established in 1988, after a study showed the project was feasible.

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