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XpressWest, a private railroad company formerly known as DesertXpress, will continue with plans to develop a high-speed rail system between Las Vegas and southern California despite the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) suspension of the company's federal loan application, XpressWest officials announced late last week.The USDOT, under former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, suspended review of the company's request for financing through the Federal Railroad Administration's Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program. FRA officials determined that "serious issues persist" with the company's loan request, including the project's "difficulty" in meeting the department's Buy America requirements, according to a letter LaHood sent to XpressWest Chairman Anthony Marnell II in late June."The department has made clear that we prioritize projects that build a foundation for economic competitiveness by advancing domestic rail in the United States," LaHood's letter stated. "The FRA expects recipients of RRIF loans to purchase steel, iron and other manufactured goods produced the United States for their projects, regardless of whether the rolling stock is separately financed."However, in a July 17 statement posted on the XpressWest website, company officials said they will continue with their project's plans regardless of the USDOT's decision."XpressWest has always, and will continue to work with an international high-speed group from North America, Asia and Europe," according to the statement. "The United States' high-speed rail market is in its infancy and the international high-speed rail community is ready, willing and able to get XpressWest on-line now and launch a new industry in America." The company has proposed constructing and operating a new, double-tracked high-speed rail route running 185 miles between southern California and Las Vegas. The project would be built within or adjacent to Interstate 15.
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