Efforts to develop a magnetic levitation train system between Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area could be affected by a pact between California and Nevada to extend a high-speed rail corridor between the cities. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Nevada Sen Harry Reid (D) announced the deal on July 2.

Reid had endorsed high-speed rail over maglev in June. The pact calls for an 184-mile route from Las Vegas to Victorville, Calif., with speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. Maglev has operated in excess of 250 miles per hour in Europe and Asia. Reid says the high-speed rail option, estimated to cost up to $5 billion, uses more conventional technology and could break ground in early 2010.

But the debate is further muddled by the $8-billion High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant program made available through the new federal stimulus program, for which the maglev project could apply. The high-speed rail venture would not seek stimulus funds, in- stead applying for federally backed loans, says a project official. He says work would take three to four years to complete.

Officials of the International Maglev Board say maglev is not dead yet. Proponents admit initial capital costs are higher but say long-term operations are less expensive and can ultimately generate higher profits.