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Western states propose high-speed rail across Rockies, deserts

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Five regional planning agencies form the Western High Speed Rail Alliance, seek to connect Denver, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix into high-speed rail grid

High-speed rail travel is gaining momentum. In previous posts, we talked about high-speed rail initiatives taking place in California and Florida. Now, it looks like a group of western states are also interested in establishing a high-speed rail network across their region.

Five regional planning agencies throughout the Rocky and Intermountain West just announced the formation of the Western High Speed Rail Alliance (WHSRA), which will work to support the creation of a high-speed rail system in the western United States.

The Western High Speed Rail Alliance envisions a Denver to Los Angeles corridor via a high-speed rail network with regional “hubs” in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver and Phoenix as well as linkages from Denver to Salt Lake City to Reno and ultimately connection to San Francisco, CA. The WHSRA also says it hopes to add both public and private sector members to their alliance in order to assist in developing future corridors that will be built over the next 20 years.

As an example of the need, a recent study conducted by the Brookings Institution states that McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is one of the busiest short-haul airports in the country, shuttling 3.7 million passengers from Las Vegas to Los Angeles alone in the year ending March 2009.

As Jacob Snow, chairman for the WHSRA, put it: “Connecting the Western United States with a robust rail network will be a major step towards reducing air traffic and highway congestion, while in turn increasing interstate highway capacity for goods movement and improving air quality by reducing emissions.”

Included in the alliance are the following planning agencies: The Denver Regional Council of Governments, the Maricopa Association of Governments (the greater Phoenix Area), Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (Las Vegas, Nevada), the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (Reno, Nevada), and the Utah Transit Authority (Salt Lake City, Utah).  The WHSRA will be requesting $50 million from the reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Act that Congress is expected to consider next year.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure