GOP rides Reid on rail line funding in stimulus bill

WASHINGTON — High-speed railroads that might someday whisk visitors between Las Vegas and Southern California received a boost under the economic stimulus bill. But Republicans are trying to make Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., pay a price for the plan.

Reid inserted $8 billion in the bill to construct high-speed rail lines. The amount was four times more than the Senate approved in an earlier version of the stimulus bill.

Reid aides said the funding is in the form of competitive grants and the two competing rail projects in Southern Nevada would be eligible to apply, along with those in the Northeast.

One project that has the backing of a California-Nevada commission proposes to build a 269-mile magnetic levitation train line between Las Vegas and Anaheim, Calif.

The second, Desert Xpress, is proposing a passenger train between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif., using conventional high-speed technology.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is trying to get Reid defeated in the 2010 elections, seized on the funding.

In a press release this afternoon, the committee argued the rail money was evidence that Reid, the Senate majority leader, was going back on a promise to keep pet projects out of the $789 billion stimulus bill.

Republicans also sought to tie a $30 million wetlands effort in the San Francisco Bay area to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Reid called foul. The bill has “no specific language referencing the proposed Nevada rail projects, despite what the Republicans are pushing,” spokesman Jon Summers said.

“The Secretary (of Transportation) will have complete flexibility as to which program he uses to allocate the funds,” Summers said in an e-mail. “This was a major priority for President Obama, and Sen. Reid ... supported it.”

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760.