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Feds Ax High-Speed Funding, Approve Vegas Train Right of Way

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The prospects for high-speed rail in California got another set of mixed messages from the federal government last week. The bad news came in the form of a federal transportation bill that cut off funding to high-speed rail projects. The good news was a move by the Bureau of Land Management to approve the right of way for the DesertXpress train from Victorville to Las Vegas. As in a lot of good news/bad news scenarios, the bad news probably ruins the good news, but it could be worse. The federal transportation bill signed by the president on Friday included zero dollars in federal funding for high-speed rail next year. The California High Speed rail project already has $3.9 billion in federal funds, which, as the AP mentioned recently, is probably enough to start on Phase I through the Central Valley, but not enough to complete the project (the California High-Speed Rail Authority recently released a new budget that put the cost almost $100 billion). The question now becomes whether the powers that be can stomach beginning construction on a project that does not have long-term federal backing. And that's aside from the Central Valley lawsuit that's been filed.

As the Las Vegas Tribune mentioned in October, the DesertXpress is counting on a loan from the federal government to begin construction in 2012. The $6 billion DesertXpress project might have to get creative to acquire the needed funds for construction.

But at least the train is racking up approvals and positive spin. Last month, the project's leadership was talking optimistically about breaking ground in 2012 and this month the Bureau of Land Management has approved a right of way that will use 821 acres of public land and 2,800 acres of private land mostly along Interstate 15 between Victorville and Sin City. The BLM joins the Surface Transportation Board and the Federal Railroad Administration as federal agencies that have approved the right of way.
· Congress about to kill high-speed train program [The Source]
· DesertXpress Right-Of-Way From Vegas To SoCal Approved [Railroad.net]
· California Bullet Train Suffering, Vegas Chugging Along [Curbed LA]