Reid plans XpressWest talks with White House

Sen. Harry Reid said Wednesday he is scheduled to meet next week with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in an effort to persuade the Obama administration to reconsider a $5.5 billion loan to XpressWest, the Las Vegas entity that has proposed building a high-speed rail line connecting the city with Victorville, Calif.

After 2½ years of review, the Department of Transportation last month suspended the company’s loan application, saying in part that XpressWest failed to meet Buy America standards for its project.

“It’s not over with yet,” said the Senate majority leader from Nevada. “We have some ideas. It’s not dead. We think we have a way forward.” He declined to give details.

A Transportation Department official sought to clarify Wednesday that the XpressWest application was suspended at a point before the department reached the completion of its review process and had to make a final decision to approve or deny it.

The loan bid is “no longer under review, though XpressWest has the ability to revive its application by significantly revising its request,” said Kevin Thompson, associate administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Reid’s meeting with McDonough follows on a conversation he said he had last month with President Barack Obama over the Nevada-California project.

“This is very important to the president. High-speed rail is important. It’s about all he’s got now,” Reid said without elaborating.