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March 22, 2019

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Nevada not included on list for high-speed rail projects

Updated Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010 | 3:52 p.m.

Harry Reid, transportation secretary discuss announcement

Neither of Nevada's competing rail lines won $8 billion in high-speed rail funds today -- one because it didn't qualify, the other because it is a private project that did not seek the federal stimulus dollars.

However, today’s announcement could be beneficial for the DesertXpress plan to connect Las Vegas with Victorville.

The California-Nevada Super Speed Train Coalition has been working on building a maglev train from Las Vegas to Anaheim for nearly 30 years, but the upstart DesertXpress project has threatened the maglev proposal.

The new plan is privately funded and didn’t request federal funds, but Sen. Harry Reid, who switched his support to the DesertXpress plan, said the project will benefit from funds anyway.

Nearly a quarter of the federal money, $2.34 billion, will go to California, with $2.25 billion going to a new high-speed system to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles and the remainder going to other rail projects in the state.

The DesertXpress project is a steel wheel train that only goes to Victorville rather than all the way to Los Angeles, but supporters plan to connect that line to Palmdale, Calif., linking Las Vegas to the California train system.

“This Recovery Act funding is a boon for Nevada’s high-speed rail, which will connect to the Californian north-south line giving Nevadans fast access to places like San Diego and San Francisco, while giving Californians access to Nevada’s top tourist destinations,” Reid said in a statement.

The maglev line, which applied for the funds, was found “ineligible” by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Reid said.

Gov. Jim Gibbons blamed Reid and President Barack Obama for Nevada’s lack of funding for the maglev project.

“Nevada already has a high-speed magnetic levitation train plan in place,” Gibbons said in the statement. “It is disgusting and disgraceful that Reid and Obama ignored our efforts.”

Reid spokesman Jon Summers replied to Gibbons’ statement by saying that Nevada didn’t get any funds because it failed to apply.

The California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission did apply, but “only states, groups of states, interstate compacts or public agencies” could apply for funding, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation released by Reid’s office.

Until last June, Reid also supported the maglev plan and included the project in federal transportation legislation, but funds from that legislation have not yet been delivered to Nevada.

The train commission said it remains optimistic it can receive those federal funds.

“We remain hopeful that there will be some federal funds in the future, to complement the private funding we are pursuing, starting with $45 million dollars awarded in the 2005 transportation bill, that has yet to be released to the state, even though the project's scope of work has been approved by the Federal Railway Administration and the matching funds requirement has been provided by the state's private partner,” said Bruce Aguilera, chairman of the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission.

DesertXpress chairman Tony Marnell issued a statement today praising the announcement as good for Las Vegas.

“This award will allow for high speed train travel from Las Vegas into the heart of Southern California via DesertXpress. Once the connection is made between Victorville and Palmdale, it means that the link between Las Vegas and the entire state of California becomes a reality,” Marnell said. “We look forward to working with California to provide seamless, transfer-free, high speed and very frequent service to Southern California.”

He also took the opportunity to support Reid and attack Gibbons.

“Any politically motivated statement that this announcement is negative for Nevada fails to recognize that DesertXpress Enterprises is creating jobs today without public funding and will create over 50,000 jobs in all areas of design, construction, operations and maintenance, not to mention a new tourist life-line for our state’s primary industry through DesertXpress,” Marnell said.

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