Today's starter topic: While the Obama Administration has refused to approve the permanent job-creating Keystone XL pipeline in its entirety, it seems that officials are much closer to giving the nod to build a high-speed train connecting Las Vegas to a town in the middle of nowhere, 100 miles away from Los Angeles. And not just approve the project, they also are poised to "loan" nearly $5 billion to the project, which happens to be connected to Nevada Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
Privately held DesertXpress is on the verge of landing a $4.9 billion loan from the Obama administration to build the 150 mph train, which could be a lifeline for a region devastated by the housing crash or a crap shoot for taxpayers weary of Washington spending.
The vast park-and-ride project hinges on the untested idea that car-loving Californians will drive about 100 miles from the Los Angeles area, pull off busy Interstate 15 and board a train for the final leg to the famous Strip.
Planners imagine that millions of travelers a year will one day flock to a station outside down-on-its-luck Victorville, a small city where shuttered storefronts pock the historic downtown.
An alliance of business and political rainmakers from The Strip to Capitol Hill is backing the project that could become the first high-speed system to break ground under President Barack Obama's push to modernize the U.S. rail network — and give the Democratic president's re-election prospects a lift in battleground Nevada.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has publicly blessed the train — it means jobs, he says — and it's cleared several regulatory hurdles in Washington.
Yet even as the Federal Railroad Administration considers awarding what would be, by far, the largest loan of its type, its own research warns it's difficult to predict how many people will ride the train, a critical measure of financial survival, an Associated Press review found.
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