By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
High-speed rail transportation from Southern California into Las Vegas, so far, has been a highly-sought, yet unattainable goal for Nevada’s resort industry.
If constructed someday, it would provide a safe, quick and economical way for Las Vegas to tap into one of its biggest tourism markets and an established fan base for Raiders football.
That “someday” may be coming soon, said Sig Rogich, president of The Rogich Communications Group of Las Vegas, which does international business in public relations and crisis management.
When Nevada Newsmakers host Sam Shad asked Rogich Monday if it could take 30 years to get high-speed rail service going for Las Vegas, Rogich countered:
“No I don’t think 30 years at all. I think it is probably five to eight years from now. You are going to see this thing called industry, this new industry of high-speed rail start to develop,” he said.
A high-speed connection from Palmdale, Calif. to Las Vegas could jump start the high-speed rail industry in the U.S., which could be “transformational” to the Western U.S., Rogich said.
“Once that happens (Palmdale to Las Vegas high-speed service) — and I think it will eventually — you are going to see high-speed rail from Phoenix,” Rogich. “It’s a direct shot to Palmdale, from Salt Lake into Phoenix and then Salt Lake to here (Las Vegas). I think it will be transformational for the West.”
A “Catch 22” federal regulation has, so far, made high-speed rail to Las Vegas unattainable. High-speed rail trains that operate in the U.S. must be manufactured in the U.S. to get any federal funding, according to regulation. However, there is no high-speed train production currently in the U.S.
In 2015, XpressWest announced a deal with China Railway International to build the high-speed rail from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Nine months later, the deal was off. In a prepared statement, XpressWest was critical of the “Catch 22” federal regulation.
“As everyone knows, there are no high-speed trains manufactured in the United States,” XpressWest’s statement of June 8, 2016, said. “This inflexible requirement has been a fundamental barrier to financing high-speed rail in our country.
“For the past 10 years, we have patiently waited for policymakers to recognize high-speed rail in the United States is a new enterprise and that allowing trains from countries with decades of safe high-speed rail experience is needed to connect the Southwest region and start this new industry,” XpressWest wrote.
President Trump’s stated desire for improved infrastructure may eliminate that roadblock, Rogich said.
“I think so, yes,” Rogich said when asked about Trump.
Rogich said the regulation that all high-speed trains must be built in the United States “is not a firm rule but it is one that applies if you are seeking U.S. federal funding.”
Rogich added: ”
“They (Obama White House) thought that they had to have everything manufactured in the United States,” he said. “But no one (in the U.S.) was building it. They didn’t want China to build it.”
It’s possible a foreign-government could built the train project on its own, Rogich said.
“I think that you may find that whoever comes aboard might build it themselves,” he said. “Private (companies), maybe other governments. China is a natural, so is Japan.”
China has taken over as the world’s best high-speed train builder, Rogich said. China has the most-extensive high-speed rail system in the world, with about 12,000 miles of track, according to the Los Angeles Times. China is trying to export its train technology to other nations, including Mexico and the Southeast Asia region, the Times said.
“China’s got the rolling stock over there, ready to go,” Rogich said. “They can build it cheaper, faster and better. They are the best train builders now in the world. They didn’t used to be. It used to be Japan, Germany and Switzerland.
“Now it is all China,” Rogich said. “They are building the next wave of trains that will travel at 350 mph and their goal is 500 mph. And if you have ever ridden on those trains, which I have several times in China, they are extraordinary. I mean every seat is like a first-class seat. You can stretch out, lay out, go to sleep and have great services at your disposal. So I think it is a whole new industry and I think you are going to see it a lot.”
A high-speed train to Las Vegas would divert an estimated 25 percent of the traffic now coming in to Las Vegas on I-15, according to an XpressWest study.
“There is no place to build and add onto freeways,” Rogich said. “And keep in mind the big thing, too. If we are trying to cut down on emissions, you put a train in play that is all electric, it eliminates dozens new lanes of highway that would otherwise come into play. And that means tens of millions cars would stay off the road because they are taking the high-speed trains.”