It had been a while since the proposals for two high-speed trains passing through Barstow to Las Vegas had been in the news, but it's not a surprise to see them under discussion again with the change in administration.
Among the many bad ideas President Barack Obama has developed in his bid to rebrand "pork" as "stimulus" is $8 billion for high-speed rail lines in various parts of the country.
A proposed rail line connecting California's major cities is on the list. A proposed Maglev (magnetic levitation) line from Anaheim to Las Vegas is not.
So at least there are some limits to the administration's wasteful spending, though the train's supporters are still hoping to get funding somehow. But with the Bush administration (which wasn't all that fiscally conservative) against it and the Obama administration looking elsewhere, we should not be holding our breath for a fancy high-tech train zooming through town anytime soon. Those embattled casinos are more likely to actually be built.
The larger question to ask though is whether these trains actually would be good for Barstow. Barstow leadership has supported the maglev project because they've promised a stop in town and a local facility that would provide jobs.
But how many jobs would be lost elsewhere in town if the train is successful? And what would replace those? What would happen to the gas stations and fast food stores when exhausted motorists from Los Angeles don't need a break? What will happen to the outlet malls and the tour buses from Los Angeles? Do leaders really, really think those folks will continue to stop at our shops when they could simply, conveniently continue on to Las Vegas?
We don't oppose the private marketplace forcing businesses to adapt to changes, even if it results in some displacement. But this is a government project, meaning we are giving the government money, which will then be used to build something to essentially make it easier for Barstow's primary external revenue base to completely bypass us in the future.
The maglev project will benefit many people — at least the folks who get the government contracts to build it. Whether it's a benefit to Barstow, however, is another question entirely.