Last August, the Reason Foundation released a report by Wendell Cox and Adrian Moore critiquing the privately funded XpressWest’s (Xpress) application for a federal loan needed to begin construction. At the time, Streetsblog was still so busy laughing at Reason’s attempts to discredit the Expo Line based on two dudes riding the car its first week of operation, we ignored the report. Besides, the Reason Foundation issuing a report that said that High Speed Rail ridership would be lower than expected or that operations would be costlier than expected isn’t news.
As Angie Schmitt at Streetsblog.net noted earlier in the year, before the report came out, “The Reason Foundation’s “research” on high-speed rail is pretty predictable. We know what this oil industry-backed think tank is going to say before they’ve said it: Ridership will be lower than expected; costs will be higher.”
If constructed, Xpress will be 185 miles of High Speed Rail between Southern California and Las Vegas. The line will run within or adjacent to the I-15 freeway and have no at-grade crossings with vehicle or pedestrian traffic. The non-stop trip between Victorville and Las Vegas could take 80 minutes. Xpress is a private, for-profit venture. Locally it is supported on the California side by conservative County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. On the Nevada side, it is a favorite project of Senator Harry Reid.
Turns out, we made a strategic error. Apparently Republican leadership in the House and Senate don’t realize that a Reason Foundation report on rail is about as credible as tobacco company report on cigarette health or a Disney funded report on a giant talking mouse’s impact on childhood development. Last week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that Xpress is wasteful and too risky for taxpayers. They ask USDOT to deny a $5.5 billion loan for the project construction.
Ryan and Sessions based their letter on the Reason report from last August. However, since it’s not good enough to just laugh at them, especially since Ryan is still treated with reverence as a serious thinker by much of the political press. Streetsblog would like to note that attacking Reason’s report is not a blanket endorsement of Xpress, sometimes lampooned on Streetsblog L.A. as the “Gamblin’ Train to Vegas.” There are some concerns with the project planning, none of which were shored up when the CEO for Xpress defended the project to the press this week in the vaguest possible terms.
Now with the disclaimer over, let’s get to work. Read more…