Harry Reid Vows to Save Vegas HSR

Sep 23rd, 2013 | Posted by

Back in July it emerged that XpressWest’s federal loan application was being put on hold owing largely to concerns that the project would not meet federal Buy America rules. Nevada Senator Harry Reid vowed to work to save the project, and according to a radio interview he gave in Nevada last week, he is still working at it:

In an interview last week on “Nevada Newsmakers,” a political television program produced in Reno, Reid said he has spoken recently with White House officials about getting the project back on track.

“I’ve had conversations within the last week with the White House and with (XpressWest Chairman) Tony Marnell, who is the person who is putting up all the money on that,” Reid said. “(California Gov.) Jerry Brown loves it. I like it. It’s a pretty good start.”

Senator Reid has not yet revealed any news regarding the loan application, and it’s clear that the Buy America provision will have to be addressed for the loan to go forward.

The simplest method here would be for the federal government to fund the project, along with other HSR routes across the country. But as long as the Tea Party is in control of the House they won’t allow that to happen, so XpressWest has to jump through hoops like the federal loan application.

As someone who believes we need a national high speed rail network in order to address climate change and energy independence, I’m all for Senator Reid’s efforts to keep XpressWest and its loan application alive. Eventually this austerity madness will end, and keeping important projects alive during this crazy time is essential to this country’s future.

  1. synonymouse
    Sep 23rd, 2013 at 21:17

    Problem is, as John Friendly says

    There is no one tough anymore. You have to lean on em a little.


  2. J. Wong
    Sep 23rd, 2013 at 23:19

    Off-topic, Chinese HSR exceeds expectations: NY Times: High Speed Train System is Huge Success for China

    Chad Reply:

    I hated the line in that article about population density. While the US does not have China-level density, all of our coasts and the Midwest corridor have European-level densities, which are clearly large enough to support HSR.

    One comparison I like to make is the combined states of NY, PA, OH, IN, and IL, which have almost exactly the same land area and population as France. If HSR works so well in the latter, why can’t it work in the former? Even more importantly, the layout of the population in those two regions actually is better for HSR than in France, whose HSR system looks like a wheel with a bunch of spokes. Most of the five-state region would be covered with one line between NYC and CHI. Throw in a Tri-C line in Ohio and the bit of the BOS-DC line on the east coast, and you’ve covered nearly everything that should be covered.

    Eric Reply:

    Of course, French HSR doesn’t have to cross anything like the Appalachians.

    TomA Reply:

    And I would guess, that while the overall density is the same, the pattern of density outside of the NY and Chicago areas is much more diffuse.

    I’ve never been to France, but I have been to England, and there the towns and cities are much more dense and fall away to farmland much more quickly.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Fun little tidbits. Rhode Island and New Jersey are more densely populated than Japan.
    Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, New York and Florida are more densely populated than France. California and Pennsylvania are slightly less densely populated than France. But more densely populated than Spain. As are Illinois and Ohio. Virginia is almost as densely populated as Spain.

    Emmanuel Reply:

    Theb again, there is Japan. Just because we are the first to face a challenge to this degree doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    The New York Central didn’t really cross the Appalachians, either. There was a reason they called it the Water Level Route, although they did have a considerable “dogleg” with their route via Albany.

    Speaking of the NYC, I recently ran across this photo at Rochester, N.Y., ca. 1921.


    Alon Levy Reply:

    The topography in Provence isn’t any easier than in Appalachian Pennsylvania. Ditto the topography near the Rhine, in Hesse and NRW.

    Eric Reply:

    There is plenty of harsh topography in France, but as far as I can tell, the routes used by HSR there are pretty damn flat.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s not true at all. The old lines had to use tunnels, and the LGV Sud-Est avoided tunnels by making full use of 3.5% grades. On the LGV Méditerranée, urban tunneling through Marseille was unavoidable and as a result 6% of the main route is underground. On the LGV PACA, partly because the topography is mountainous and partly because NIMBYs forced a more difficult route, all alternatives are at least one third underground.

    J. Wong Reply:

    What really caught my eye was the indirect benefits HSR is bringing to the Chinese economy. I don’t understand how any conservative can see that and not want the same for California. Well, actually I can. The conservative point-of-view is “I’ve got mine so don’t change anything. Screw you.”

    joe Reply:

    For example, Chinese workers are now more productive. A paper for the World Bank by three consultants this year found that Chinese cities connected to the high-speed rail network, as more than 100 are already, are likely to experience broad growth in worker productivity. The productivity gains occur when companies find themselves within a couple of hours’ train ride of tens of millions of potential customers, employees and rivals.

    Productivity gains to the economy appear to be of the same order as the combined economic gains from the usual arguments given for high-speed trains, including time savings for travelers, reduced noise, less air pollution and fuel savings, the World Bank consultants calculated.

    Glad we’re not bypassing the CV cities to save 10 minutes in travel time. And it appears the gains are within estimates for all other HSR systems,. China is no exception.

    Fresno will be ~1 hour from a hypothetical Palo Alto stop. What would that do for the City and State University?

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Oh wow, $500 billion in rail debt? That’s $370k per Chinese citizen. Sound dangerous. Also, I hope when the guy said that they plan on spending the $100 billion a year in rail funds “mainly” on high-speed rail, that wasn’t true – most trips are intracity, and spending should reflect that.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Presumably local rail spending is done by cities and provinces?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    500 billion divided by 1.3 billion isn’t 370,000

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Oy, I’m an idiot. Disregard.

  3. John Nachtigall
    Sep 24th, 2013 at 06:20

    Supporter or not, this is a loan, not a grant, there is 0% chance of it getting paid back which is what they are supposed to evaluate. Hacking been burned badly and often on the solar and battery industry loans they are not giving out an HSR loan that is going to burn them again

    And while the buy America rules were mentioned in the letter, we don’t know what were in the redacted sections, it could have been other bigger objections on private funding match which they don’t have enough of.

    joe Reply:

    It’s like a Bank Bail out under George Bush only 100 times smaller.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So you admit they have no chance of paying it back?

    joe Reply:

    No. They have a great chance of paying it back.

    I just like reminding conservatives they’re full of crap.

    jimsf Reply:

    so, so, so full of crap.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    No, they don’t have a chance of paying it back as any competent look at their financial expectations would show.

    Eric Reply:

    The bank bailout was paid back and the government made a significant profit on it.

    The relaxed banking regulations that led to the crisis, on the other hand – now that’s a real scandal.

    Reedman Reply:

    The TARP funds given to normal, rational banks were paid back at face value. But …

    The bailout of GM and the UAW came from TARP funds, and will be costing the taxpayer around
    $15 billion by the time the Treasury liquidates its last GM stock.
    The taxpayer still owns most of GMAC (now called Ally). Ally is planning an exit refinancing that will
    end up costing the taxpayer losses of over $5 billion.

    VBobier Reply:

    I call that for what it is: BS, GM paid it’s Tarp loan back at least 3 tears ago…

    Now some $49.5 in TARP funds was used to invest in GM stock, which helped the company and the economy and kept the US out of a 2nd Great Depression like in 1929…

    But the debt was only part of the automaker bailout package. Through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Treasury gave GM $49.5 billion, most of which was converted into an ownership stake in the form of stock. Through this equity stake, the government still owns 61 percent of GM.

    General Motors’ Debt

    Q: Did General Motors repay its TARP loan from the Treasury with other TARP money?

    A: Yes. GM repaid the loan portion of the automaker bailout ahead of schedule, with interest. It used TARP money it had already received but hadn’t spent. And taxpayers are still stuck with GM stock that isn’t worth what was paid for it.

    Eric M Reply:

    “Although GM’s stock, which rose 86 cents Wednesday to close at $37.57, is enjoying a strong year, the government is still likely to lose about $10 billion on the GM bailout. The final figure will depend on the performance of GM shares over the next several months.”


    VBobier Reply:

    So what? It’s the US investing in GM over the long haul, instant profits don’t always happen…

    Especially in or near a Repub/bagger manufactured crisis/recession…

    Eric M Reply:

    The government should not have bailed out a failing company who couldn’t adapt products and designs with the times. Period.

    Eric Reply:

    The GM bailout came under Obama, not Bush.

    VBobier Reply:

    So you think that’s a bad thing to keep the USA out of a 2nd Great Depression?

    Only descendent of Royalist toadys would think that…

    Mike Reply:

    John, what IS the private funding match? If I were the federal government, I’d want to see the private owners of the railroad have some real skin in the game (33%? 50%?) before I’d put taxpayers on the hook. And preferably some collateral backing up the public loan.

    StevieB Reply:

    The Obama administration has decided to revive a controversial loan guarantee program at the Energy Department. A very few loans went to companies that failed. Peter W. Davidson, executive director of the loan program office at the Energy Department, talked about the numbers.

    On a $34 billion loan portfolio, the government has lost about $800 million, he said. That’s about 2.3 percent, and only a small fraction of the $10 billion Congress set aside to cover losses.

    “We think that number compares extremely well with other lenders,” he said. “The rigor in the policy and procedures that we make borrowers go through is intense and profound and it’s very significant.”

  4. datacruncher
    Sep 24th, 2013 at 09:04

    Today is an open house at the new project construction offices for Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons in downtown Fresno. Other project related firms opening offices in the same building include PGH Wong Engineering and Harris & Associates.


    J. Wong Reply:

    I wonder how likely Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons think Judge Kenny will shutdown the project? (Like not at all. If they thought it likely, why open the office now?)

  5. jimsf
    Sep 24th, 2013 at 09:26

    What part of the project did not meet the buy america? No trainsets will be ordered for years. I assume they would hire local construction workers and not import them from Bangladesh.

    Railroads are not complicated. Dirt, rocks, ties, rails and signals. Its been done for almost 500 hundred years.

    VBobier Reply:

    I think it might be the rolling stock, as I think no one in the USA makes HSR rolling stock and/or HSR electric locomotives, if I’m wrong on this, I’m ok with that.

    Sure there are some manufacturers in the US that make HSR rolling stock and HSR electric locomotives, but that is done overseas, as currently there is no market here yet for HSR rolling stock and/or HSR electric locomotives…

    So this Buy America is for the moment useless…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are plants in North America popping out rail cars and locomotives. They can pop out a few HSR trains. Just like other plants in other industries pop out different products depending on demand.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, the railroad system under Henry VIII was fascinating.

    jimsf Reply:

    railroad history

    Ted K. Reply:

    King Henry VIII of England (b. 1491, reigned 1509-47)

    Early pseudo-railroad : Diolkos near Corinth, Greece (~600 B.C. – ~100 A.D.)

    Earliest record of a wagonway / railroad : Freiburg Cathedral, c.1350
    Longest operating railroad : Reisszug, Salzburg, Austria (c.1504 – present)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Not quite that old, but been around a little while:


    Mike Reply:

    It’s curious. As far as I know, there’s never been any information released as to what the Buy American failings were.

    I’d expect XpressWest to take the federal loan and use it to build stations, lay track, install traction power, etc. All stuff that easily allows domestic spending. Then use the private investors’ money to purchase the foreign stuff, i.e., rolling stock. (I have no idea how the investment partnership was structured, but I’d imagine that Bombardier would be an equity partner in the whole thing and would itself provide financing for the rolling stock.)

    Ted Judah Reply:


    You may be answering your own question. From the Wikipedia entry under “Chinese High Speed Rail”.

    For foreign train-makers, technology transfer is an important part of gaining market access in China. Bombardier, the first foreign train-maker to form a joint venture in China, has been sharing technology for the manufacture of railway passenger cars and rolling stock since 1998. Zhang Jianwei, President and Chief Country Representative of Bombardier China, stated that in a 2009 interview, “Whatever technology Bombardier has, whatever the China market needs, there is no need to ask. Bombardier transfers advanced and mature technology to China, which we do not treat as an experimental market.”[32] Unlike other series which have imported prototypes, all CRH1 trains have been assembled at Bombardier’s joint-venture with CSR, Bombardier Sifang in Qingdao.

    Mike Reply:

    Ted, I don’t get what that has to do with XpressWest?

  6. jimsf
    Sep 24th, 2013 at 17:34

    Well I hope that Reid can keep this moving forward. Having chsr and xwest would be a nice start to a western network and would compliment each other well. I don’t see xwest as being so much a benefit to nevada casinos ( though it would be) as much as just doing what hsr will do in california which is to better tie economic regions together so everyone benefits. Unlike air travel which is only generally good between major cities, and even then, a huge time consuming hassle, a high speed rail network with plenty of intermediate service – huge numbers of available city pairs, has the ability to bring millions of people closer together despite distance and that is the true benefit of these proposed high speed networks in the long run, even if politicians, authorites, and investors them selves can’t see it or arent focusing on it.

    nslander Reply:

    Aye. I wish these goals were given more attention. Like all of it.

    jimsf Reply:

    they should be making more effort to work with chsra to integrate

Comments are closed.