Riding on that mag lev train to Vegas

The stimulus package includes $8 billion for high speed rail, thanks in part to the Senator from Nevada, Harry Reid

Published February 12, 2009 8:40PM (EST)

Some of the very best blogs are those that focus obsessively on just one topic -- and so it is with one of the newest additions to my blogroll, Yonah Freemark's "The Transport Politic." As you might guess -- it's all about the politics of mass transit, and while the rest of us have been watching the progress of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through various ideological or political or economic prisms, Freemark has cared only about what its passage might mean for mass transit funding.

And in something of a surprise, the very latest word is that the version of the bill currently agreed to by House and Senate negotiators includes $8 billion for high-speed railway construction, which is more than four times what was originally in the Senate version of the bill. There was no funding at all for high speed rail in the original House stimulus proposal.

To what do we owe this? The Associated Press reports that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, pushed hard for the funding in "late stage talks."

We have a pretty good idea of why Obama wanted it: On Tuesday he told an audience in Florida that the days of building "sprawl" were over, and the he would like to "see high speed rail where it can be constructed." High speed rail serves multiple Obama energy and environmental agendas.

But what about Reid, the senior senator from Nevada? Again, from the AP:

Reid's office issued a statement noting that a proposed Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas rail might get a big chunk of the money.

So, we can decrease our usage of fossil fuel-burning, greenhouse gas-belching automobiles, and cut the commute time for Southern Californian gamblers at the same time. Talk about hitting the jackpot!

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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