By Noel T. Braymer
There are plans to build High Speed Rail from Las Vegas to Victorville on I-15 and then run these trains to Palmdale on the right of way of a proposed new highway between these 2 cities. From Palmdale the Las Vegas trains could be extended to Burbank sharing the California High Speed Rail tracks and later perhaps to Los Angeles and Anaheim. This new road between Palmdale and Victorville is planned to continue on a few miles east of Victorville to Apple Valley. What I ponder is what could be done if we extend the tracks to Apple Valley and further east?
From Apple Valley the tracks in the future could be extended roughly following Highway 18 to where it becomes Highway 247 at Lucerne Valley. Heading southeast Highway 247 junctions with Highway 62 at Yucca Valley which heads south through a mountain pass to end at I-10 west of Palm Springs. If we used this route in this lightly populated area to extend High Speed Rail we could use I-10 to serve the Palm Springs area.
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Such an extension would give High Speed Rail service from Palm Springs to Los Angeles and most of Southern California in the next 10 to 20 years. But it can also provide connections or even direct service to Las Vegas and up the San Joaquin Valley to San Francisco in the future. Adding just this short leg greatly increases the market for High Speed Passenger Rail service in California in the future.
This begs the question: what about serving Phoenix and Tucson? Extending High Speed Rail service along the I-10 to southern Arizona shouldn’t be terribly hard to do. This would also open connections with High Speed Rail service from Arizona to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. This connections would greatly increase ridership on all 3 High Speed Rail Lines.
The population of the greater Phoenix Metro area is now over 4.3 million people and growing. It is the 11th largest Metro area in the United States right next to in size as the San Francisco-Oakland Metro area. Both are roughly the same distance from Los Angeles. Add the population of the Tucson Metro area and that adds almost another million people to this travel market.
It may seem early to start talking about adding High Speed Rail service to Palm Springs, let alone to Arizona from California. But good planning needs to start early if for no other reason than to preserve future right of way. Radiating out of Los Angeles the busiest air corridors as of 2010 were Los Angeles to San Francisco; 2nd busiest in the nation at 6.3 million passengers. Next Los Angeles to Las Vegas at number 9 with 3.7 million passenger and right behind at 10th Los Angeles to Phoenix at 3.4 million. Combined air travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Phoenix is over 7 million air passengers, more than between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Sometime after 2029, there are plans to build High Speed Rail from Los Angeles to the Inland Empire in the area of San Bernardino and Riverside then heading south to San Diego. When this finally happens, we could also extend the Arizona High Speed Rail service to the Inland Empire and San Diego. This will open up more markets and be a short cut to serve San Diego and the Inland Empire from Arizona. With this extension from Phoenix and Tucson there will be High Speed Rail service to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego as well as all points in between.
As well as building High Speed Rail in California , we need to make sure all the parts fit. Using Victorville as a hub for trains from Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Francisco will bring these 3 routes together and connect the services. We should be thinking and planning now to take advantage of this and work to connect the busiest travel markets in the American West by High Speed Rail now.