DesertXpress Enterprises, LLC.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009 | 9:24 a.m.
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WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has thrown his support behind Desert Xpress, the proposed privately financed fast train between Las Vegas and Southern California, all but dooming chances for a competing Maglev system.
Reid’s office confirms a brief report in today’s Los Angeles Times that the senator prefers the traditional rail project to the magnetic levitation train he has championed for years.
Reid believes Desert Xpress has “made more progress in the last couple of years than Maglev has made in the past 30,” said his spokesman Jon Summers.
“He wants to see something done.”
The reversal comes at a critical juncture, as Maglev developers hoped to secure part of the historic $8 billion investment the Obama administration is making in high-speed rail.
Maglev representatives met recently with Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood to make their case, in a meeting arranged by Reid.
But Reid has been moved by Desert Xpress’ swift progress.
The company backed by political mogul Sig Rogich has financed its own environmental studies, and developers believe they can break ground next year. A previously announced groundbreaking was postponed.
Reid was also impressed by Desert Xpress’ private financing, saying the project wouldn’t be as dependent on public funds as the Maglev train, Summers said.
In the past, Reid has championed Maglev, helping to secure $45 million in federal planning funds for the project in 2008.
“If it’s going to be really done in a big way, a Las Vegas way, the magnetic levitation would be the way to do it,” Reid said at the time. “If we can get this done, it will be the showboat of the world.”
Losing the support of the powerful majority leader could be difficult for the Maglev project, which has been promoted by a state commission and a consortium of private builders.
Among Desert Xpress’ chief backers is Rogich, among Republicans in Nevada who have announced their support for Reid’s re-election in 2010. Rogich announced his support for Reid in February.
Reid’s spokesman downplayed the connection, saying the senator has worked in Nevada for decades, and is “connected to people on just about every side of every issue.”