Harry Reid Scrambles to Save XpressWest
Nevada Senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pledging that “it’s not over yet” when it comes to the XpressWest high speed rail project:
Sen. Harry Reid will be doing some shuttle diplomacy with the White House next week to get things moving on a suspended federal loan application for the XpressWest high-speed rail project.
“It’s not over yet,” Reid told Nevada reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Reid insisted that White House officials have no hang-ups about green-lighting the project on principle but are concerned that backer Tony Marnell hasn’t met all the required financial obligations.
Marnell, who has put up $1.5 billion from private investors, is seeking a $5.5 billion federal loan for the train between Las Vegas and Southern California.
“Marnell had trouble raising private capital,” Reid said, adding the White House was concerned there was “not enough domestic manufacturing” in the original XpressWest plan.
$1.5 billion is a lot of money to have raised privately. I can understand why the White House might want even more money to be raised, to reduce the government’s risk and potentially avoid an embarrassing political situation if for some unlikely reason XpressWest defaulted on their loan. I’m sure the White House still remembers the hit they think they took over the bankruptcy of Solyndra, even though it ultimately did not hurt Democrats in the 2012 election.
Still, it’s a good reminder of the absurdity of demanding that the private sector alone fund major infrastructure projects like rail. Projects like high speed rail are usually too big a lift for the private sector alone, especially in a time when lenders remain cautious. Government exists to do big things like this, to get things built that the private sector can’t or won’t build on their own. Modern America is made possible only by government spending its own money to build huge infrastructure projects like the Boulder Dam or the Interstate Highway System.
Republican insistence that the private sector alone do big infrastructure projects flies in the face of reality. They know full well that if government doesn’t provide the funding, nobody will. That’s how they justify their attacks on important, necessary pieces of 21st century infrastructure like a bullet train from Southern California to Southern Nevada.
I hope Senator Reid is successful in saving XpressWest. But the real fault lies with the other chamber of Congress, where a House Republican majority refuses to fund high speed rail and the other things that are needed to build a lasting, sustainable prosperity in 21st century America.