DesertXpress submits an application
to build and operate.

Posted August 4, 2011

Crusing speed will be about 125 MPH.
Train is capable of 150 MPH.

    DesertXpress applicants have filed for permission from the Surface Transportation Board (STB), a spin-off of the former I.C.C., to start construction on the "bold" rail line between Victorville and Las Vegas.

    In a filing dated July 28, 2011, DesertXpress Enterprises, LLC, and DesertXpress HSR Corporation, have filed an application (Docket Number: FD_35544_0 / Filing ID: 230722) with the STB in Washington, D.C., for authority to construct and operate their proposed high-speed passenger rail line.  A link to the 301-page filing can be found below this report.

    With the Obama administration strongly promoting high-speed rail construction, the promoters may acquire approval and closer access to the $6,000,000,000 ($6 billion) in Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (taxpayer dollars) that they are planning on from Nevada Senator Harry Reid and their other stimulus friends in Washington.  The current total cost of the project is estimated to be $6.5 billion.

    Included in the application is a request for exemption from 49 U.S.C. § 10901 which adds a layer of governmental review upon the project.  The application states (page 10) that the applicants believe that an exemption is warranted as "opposed to subjecting the proposed project to unnecessary and burdensome administrative regulation," and that for the $6 billion in taxpayer financing, "there is no need for extensive regulatory oversight to determine whether the proposed project is economically sound or meets a specific transportation need." (page 12)

    The principle applicant behind DesertXpress is The Marnell Companies whose project portfolio includes development of such casinos as The Wynn, Bellagio, The Mirage, Treasure Island, The Rio, The Excalibur, and The M Resort in Las Vegas.  The company has also been active in Atlantic City and New Orleans.

    The city of Barstow, which will be negatively impacted, has strongly opposed the rail project which speeds through Barstow without stopping.

High-speed and efficient when well loaded.

    The paid forecast ridership of 6,490,000 round-trips annually (above referenced STB filing • page 6) appears boldly unrealistic.  That comes out to an average of a little under 18,000 round trips per day.  Community Alliance has Nevada's June 2011 electronic traffic count for the I-15 at the California border which reveals an average daily vehicle count (which includes truck traffic) of only 44,333 vehicles; that's traffic moving in both directions.

    If each vehicle averages 2 passengers (88,666 people total); divided in half for round trips, the Desert Express is forecasting the daily average capture of over 40% of I-15's traffic.  Weekend travel usually does have an average of more than 2 passengers per vehicle (about 2.7) but weekly truck traffic negates much of that.  Truck traffic represents about 11% of the vehicles.

    Another DesertXpress promotional claim is that Las Vegas gets up to 39-million visitors per year and that 1/3 (13-million) comes from Southern California.  Since Desert Express claims that 90% of visitors from Southern California drive to Las Vegas, the 13-million figure must be reduced (10%) to 11.7-million traveling on the I-15.  If the DesertXpress ridership is projected at 6.49-million round trips, DesertXpress is projecting to capture a ridership of over 55% of I-15's traffic.  Are investors to believe these claims?

    Further confusing are forecast numbers submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration which are based upon 2004 projections.  These numbers provide more conservative percentages, but contain presumptions (example page F-D-37).

    The ridership forecast report also states that approximately 28% of the traffic on I-15 have destinations other than Las Vegas (page F-D-53).  These people definitely would not be riding the train.

    For weekend peak-time travelers, the train will have an appeal; but for off-peak time travelers, there will be little savings in travel time; and the inconvenience of not having personal transportation in Las Vegas is unfavorable.  The federal government will likely have to subsidize the DesertXpress's daily operation.

    Using taxpayers' funds, The Marnell Companies are hoping to build their gamblers' conveyor to infuse Las Vegas with greater revenues flowing from Southern California.  This project appears so financially unbalanced and riddled with risks that it can only be financed by the high leverage of taxpayer dollars.  No private market will fund the cost which speaks for this apparent ill-conceived project.

    DesertXpress is proposing to operate a weekend fleet of 12 trains of 10 cars; with 2 hot spares, and 2 maintainence trains.  Weekend schedule would have day runs every 20-minutes, weekdays every hour.

    DesertXpress repeatedly markets this project with the spin that it is "bold."  It certainly is at taxpayers' expense.  In this harsh economic time, can America afford $6,000,000,000 to assist gamblers having a faster access to Las Vegas?  Washington thinks so.

Application to the Surface Transportation Board
CAUTION - Large 15.2 MB file.  Long download time.