Republicans Claim XpressWest Loan Is Indefinitely Suspended
Back in March two Congressional Republicans – Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – wrote to Ray LaHood hoping to block a federal loan for the XpressWest project to link Southern California and Southern Nevada with high speed rail.
Today Sessions and Ryan released a letter they wrote to the General Accounting Office in which they claim that the US Department of Transportation has decided to “indefinitely suspend review” of the loan application.
The letter was released publicly on the blog of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank that opposes high speed rail projects. Heritage called the move “Ray H. LaHood’s eleventh-hour pardon of federal and California taxpayers” and celebrated the news:
HSR is one of the more expensive, subsidy-laden, and therefore unviable forms of public transportation. If it were as beneficial and feasible as lawmakers and city planners claimed, the private sector would have embraced it without dependence on costly, taxpayer-funded subsidies from Washington. Congress should abandon any notions of future funding for HSR and pronounce any such proposals from the Administration as dead on arrival.
The comment is full of typical right-wing ideology – anything that is expensive and subsidized is “unviable” (so what do they think about the extremely expensive and massively subsidized Interstate Highway System?) and a belief that the private sector is somehow able to step up and fund billions of dollars of infrastructure even though they typically never do any such thing. And the benefits of the system, including reduced carbon emissions and savings from lower oil consumption and not having to expand airports and freeways, are ignored.
So far, however, neither XpressWest nor the US Department of Transportation have offered any public comment on the claims made in the Sessions-Ryan letter. I doubt that Sessions and Ryan are lying, but there is likely more to this story than they or the Heritage Foundation are willing to share.
UPDATE: Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News confirms that the loan review has been suspended and says that XpressWest will “continue planning” the project.