For decades, Nevada and California politicians have talked about building a high-speed train between Las Vegas and Anaheim. Las Vegas, heavily dependent on Southern California visitors, loves the idea. California, which has a lot of things going on besides shipping residents out of state to spend their money, has been less enthusiastic.
The key to making the train happen has always been federal funding, and with so many other priorities to attend to, neither Nevada nor California members of Congress have been able to get the project on track.
But hope springs eternal. The $787 billion economic stimulus package contains $8 billion for high-speed rail projects. It’s possible the California-Nevada project finally could be at least partially funded. It’s not a slam dunk — hoops must be jumped through — but thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Las Vegas could get an unexpected and much-needed boost from the stimulus plan.
Naturally, Republicans are up in arms, claiming Reid slipped the $8 billion into the stimulus bill at the last minute as an “earmark” for his home state, according to this story in the Los Angeles Times.
This is pure partisan politics. Reid may be responsible for increasing the allocation for high-speed rail, but the $8 billion is not designated for the California-Nevada line. Rather, it is likely to be allocated to several rail projects through a competitive process conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation. California officials, for example, are also very interested in securing funding for a bullet train between Anaheim and San Francisco, and there are other train proposals across the continent.
It’s a smart and logical piece of the federal spending plan, creating thousands of jobs to build useful transportation projects. And if some of the money goes to the California-Nevada project, it will stimulate the economies of two of the hardest-hit states in the union. Carping about the train funding is all about attacking Reid, who has been targeted by the GOP heading into the 2010 elections.