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The Federal Government has expressed numerous public policy objectives related to the development of high speed rail in the United States. XpressWest directly satisfies these objectives.27 XpressWest will provide benefits supporting established strategic policy goals of the Administration and across Cabinet agencies including the Departments of Transportation, Treasury, Labor, Energy, and Commerce. The most sector-specific guidance is provided by the Department of Transportation’s strategic goals, delineated in detail in its report entitled Vision for High Speed Rail in America.28 These stated objectives are to: ensure safe and efficient transportation choices; build a foundation for economic competitiveness; promote energy efficiency and environmental quality; and support interconnected livable communities.29
In October 2008, Congress enacted the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), which established a program to develop high-speed rail corridors – authorizing $1.5 billion in funding for high-speed rail project development. In 2009, the federal government announced with great enthusiasm its commitment to become a substantial investor and partner in the development of a world-class U.S. high-speed rail network. Through its $8 billion “down payment” contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and its Vision for High-Speed Rail in America, the government offered to the public its intended strategy, approach, criteria, and implementation plan. These core documents manifest the United States Government’s commitment to the development of a Greenfield industry.
The unprecedented level of committed federal funding for high-speed rail spawned hundreds of funding applications, and billions of dollars in allocations and grants. Many States and interested parties responded to our Governments’ agenda and advanced project development based upon a clear understanding that the benefits associated with developing an efficient high-speed rail network was not necessary, but more importantly satisfied social demands that will continue to challenge our society as population increases and available natural resources diminish.
Despite the palpable excitement created by the government’s commitment, very few projects have accepted our Federal Government’s offer and invested in developing high-speed rail projects. One private project, however, has continued to develop a high-speed rail project that achieves the stated strategic federal policy objectives and is currently “ready to go” with all environmental, regulatory, and right-of-way permitting and approvals in place - the XpressWest.
The XpressWest, which will link Southern California to Southern Nevada, is the only proposed high speed rail project in the U.S. that has completed the environmental review process,30 obtained all required right-of-way approvals,31 and received authorization from the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to construct and operate a high speed rail system.32 Moreover, the XpressWest has accomplished these significant milestones without obtaining any public funding to date.
As with other first-of-its-kind Greenfield industries of national importance, completion of the XpressWest cannot be realized without federal assistance as contemplated by PRIIA, ARRA, and the U.S. DOT’s Vision for High-Speed Rail in America. Indeed, many established industries we now take for granted such as aviation, micro processing, personal computing, internet, cellular communications, synthetic fuels, and nuclear, wind, and solar power owe a substantial amount of their current success to early, robust federal funding – both through direct funding and subsidies and through federal consumer purchasing.33 A well-developed and properly supported U.S. high-speed rail industry will provide both tangible near-term benefits and long-term societal benefits that will be experienced for generations to come, including the creation of a new stream of commerce as well as Federal and state taxes not currently recognized in our County.
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XpressWest, in harmony with the governments’ directive, has completed its project development. It is now time for the government to honor and perform upon its commitment to invest in high-speed rail by funding projects that yield tangible and intangible, near and long-term public benefits. By successfully leveraging XpressWest’ private sector resources with existing federal loan programs, the government will incentivize private sector participation, and demonstrate its stated commitment to high-speed rail in America is more than a “pipedream”.
With manageable capital costs, significant market demand, and private capital deployed, XpressWest is an ideal project to start development of high-speed rail. Las Vegas and Southern California represent a unique destination market for high-speed rail ridership with a consistent volume of riders traveling to a concentrated location and limited need for automobiles upon arrival. With its environmental, regulatory, and right-of-way permitting and approvals in place and all other high-speed rail projects still several years away from implementation despite substantial public funding, XpressWest is currently the only significant project to demonstrate the near-term viability of high-speed rail in the U.S.
The XpressWest embodies our government’s long-term and near-term vision for high-speed rail and exceeds our government’s policy objectives. As the only ready to go project in development, the XpressWest is the only high-speed rail project in the U.S. in a position to yield the tangible, near-term public benefits the government promised to achieve in 2008. Moreover, as a privately sponsored high-speed rail project, XpressWest presents an invaluable opportunity for the government to successfully leverage private sector resources with federal assistance and lay the foundation for future U.S. high speed rail development. It is time for the federal government to perform on its commitment and fulfill its promise to connect our people through the development and implementation of a high-speed rail.
27 Record of Decision, XpressWest High Speed Passenger Train, pg. 63.
28 U.S. Department of Transportation: Federal Railroad Administration. Vision for High Speed Rail in America. Exhibit B, April 2009.
30 U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, Record of Decision (July 8, 2011).
31 Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Record of Decision (October 31, 2011).
32 Surface Transportation Board, Decision re Docket No. FD 35544 (October 25, 2011).
33 See Breakthrough Institute, Where Good Technologies Come From: Case Studies in American Innovation (December 2010).
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