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Anaheim-Las Vegas Train Line Faces Delay : Transportation: Officials learn that the magnetic levitation project will not be finished until at least 1999. Many specifications, including routes, are incomplete.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The proposed Anaheim-Las Vegas high-speed magnetic levitation train line will be subject to delays that will put off its completion at least two more years, to 1999, it was revealed Monday.

But that was not all the unsettling news delivered at a meeting here of the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission.

As representatives of Bechtel Corp., which was designated in August as the franchisee to build the project, addressed the commission, it became clear that many of the line’s specifications--including routes, stops and ridership--are far from complete.

Bechtel’s project manager, Tom A. Marlow II, also revealed that German certification of the maglev technology to be used will not occur until April or May, even though it had been expected last September.

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Marlow said that German transportation firms involved in testing the maglev train developed by the Trans-Rapid International scientific group have been distracted by German reunification and by ambitious plans for a $58-billion modernization of the railroads in the former East Germany. Consequently, they have put off meetings with Bechtel until early next year.

Magnetic levitation uses electromagnetic force to lift trains above a fixed guideway and propel them forward at speeds up to 300 m.p.h.

Although Marlow and other Bechtel officials emphasized their company’s dedication to the Anaheim-Las Vegas project, they said that many key details will not be settled until the end of 1992.

Marlow said, for instance, that the final route of the proposed line has not been determined. While the train definitely will stop in Anaheim, it may continue to other Southern California points, if needed, to connect with other transportation systems or to attract investors.

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He said the same is true with the site of the Las Vegas terminus. Clark County supervisors have sought to locate the train station in Las Vegas near McCarran Field, the airport. But Marlow said it may be better for business to terminate the train at a downtown station.

Marlow explained that Bechtel is also closely watching plans for a commuter rail network in five Southern California urban counties. Officials hope to begin operating it by the end of 1992.

“Inter-modal links for our trains are very important,” said Marlow. “They will impact our business substantially. We’ve got to find some investors, and they will want to know, first of all, that the riders will be there.”

Bechtel plans to commission a six-to-nine-month independent ridership study that will examine alternative routes and show would-be investors that the project is financially feasible. That should begin next spring, he said.

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At the outset of Monday’s meetings, Marlow alarmed commissioners by telling them that Bechtel did not wish to enter into a final franchise agreement until after the completion of all feasibility studies, about two years away.

In the afternoon, however, he yielded to commission objections to the delay, saying Bechtel would propose the terms of such an agreement, setting forth its obligations, by the commission’s next meeting, Feb. 15.

Several commissioners, however, expressed concern that so many details of the project remain up in the air.

“We’re still selling the sizzle of this project, but we don’t know what the steak is,” said former Ontario Mayor Howard J. Snider.

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“We don’t know the route,” he explained. “It has not been identified precisely. We’re talking about new time frames. When people ask us where we’re going, what are we going to say?”

Another commissioner, Rolfe G. Arnhym, executive vice president of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, said he was “concerned at the message coming out of today’s meeting,” which he characterized as one of uncertainty.

Bechtel’s manager of corporate communications, Rick Laubscher, responded that his company feels that when anyone questions the progress of the project, “Our answer is going to be, ‘Yes, we’re moving forward.’ ”

But commission Chairman Don R. Roth, an Orange County supervisor who has long been an optimist about the project, said the delays “put our commission in somewhat of a precarious position.”

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