The proposed high-speed train line known as the "Desert Xpress" received final environmental approval this week from the Federal Railroad Administration, according to KCET. The rail would link the City of Victorville with Las Vegas, crossing through the Mojave Desert, and cost at least 6 billion dollars. The private company proposing the rail line expects a 4.9 billion dollar loan backed by taxpayers to finance most of the project. As noted on KCET's blog, the rail line has been criticized by citizens as a waste of taxpayer funds and an unwise choice for private investors. Most travel between Las Vegas and California comes from the Los Angeles basin --why would drivers abandon their cars in Victorville to hop on the train? And can the line generate enough traffic to pay off the investment?
Most of the line follows the same route as Interstate 15, but the additional infrastructure is expected to compound ecological harm in some areas. Most notably, the rail line would cut through the Ivanpah Valley--which straddles the California/Nevada border--where the desert tortoise population is already under siege by multiple solar energy projects that threaten to bulldoze over 20 square miles of pristine desert in the area.