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Proposed high speed train to Vegas going nowhere fast

A digital rendering of XpressWest's proposed high speed train that would run from Victorville to Las Vegas.
A digital rendering of XpressWest's proposed high speed train that would run from Victorville to Las Vegas.

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You can cancel that high speed train trip to Las Vegas — at last for now. The Department of Transportation has decided to "suspend further consideration" of a $5 billion federal loan application from a private company that wants to link Southern California with the gambling and entertainment mecca.

The Department of Transportation put the XpressWest high speed train project on pause because the company couldn't come up with enough U.S. manufacturers for rail cars and tracks. The department prioritizes projects that use American-made products.

The XpressWest train would take passengers to Las Vegas from Victorville — a connection point with California's proposed high speed train running from Southern California to the Bay Area.

Both projects are subject to a "Made in the U.S." standard.

South Bay Democrat Janice Hahn, who sits on the House railroads subcommittee, explains the dearth of U.S.-based manufacturers: "That's one of the problems with our economy, is that we're not growing up enough businesses to build these transportation projects in the future."

Lisa Marie Alley with California's High Speed Rail Authority says the agency has been "working proactively" with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak and other partners "to ensure compliance with Buy America."

Congresswoman Hahn calls the stalled Vegas project a lost opportunity to get Southern Californians out of their cars: "Our public transportation all over California is way behind the times."

The Vegas train project isn't completely derailed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada promises "It's not over yet." 

Both the cities of Barstow and Ontario oppose the project – Barstow for economic concerns since the train would bypass their community; Ontario prefers a mag-lev train, a project that died when Reid backed the XpressWest project over a high speed train that uses magnets rather than wheels.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation called the loan cancellation “an eleventh-hour pardon of federal and California taxpayers.”