XpressWest Still Awaiting Word on Federal Loan
When last we checked, XpressWest – the Southern California to Las Vegas high speed rail project – was still awaiting word on their $5.5 billion federal loan application. Today, we learned that, unfortunately, they’re still waiting:
Andrew Mack, chief operating officer of XpressWest, told the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors that his company is still awaiting word on approval of a $5.5 billion loan….
The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan, overseen by the Federal Railroad Administration, is critical to the XpressWest project. Mack said most RRIF loan applications take an average 19 months to complete. XpressWest filed for the loan in December 2010.
Mack attributed the lengthy wait to the complexity of the project and the amount of due diligence the FRA must complete to approve the loan.
Once the loan is approved, it will take about a year to begin construction and five years to complete the project, Mack said. Because most of the rail line would be built within the Interstate 15 right-of-way, the construction period would serve as “five years of advertising that the train is coming” to motorists who drive between Southern California and Las Vegas, he said.
And according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s article on the project construction might be as much as 18 months away, with Mack estimating another six months on the loan request.
There’s no word on what exactly is causing the loan request to take so much time. The loan program has the budget to handle this kind of request. It’s possible that the Obama Administration wants to find a politically advantageous time to make the announcement, perhaps after Ray LaHood’s replacement as Transportation Secretary is confirmed. But that is just speculation.
XpressWest is a good project that will play an important role in California’s passenger rail future. Let’s hope the project loan application is approved and that we see construction begin sometime in 2014.