Construction of the Las Vegas to Los Angeles rapid train is expected to begin within the next 12 months.
Construction of the high-speed train to link Las Vegas to Los Angeles could begin “within the next 12 months or so,” Phillip Washington, head of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) at a final congressional hearing. week.
This time frame opens the possibility of a delay beyond Brightline’s forecast in January that the project would start in the second quarter of this year. Brightline is the Florida-based company developing the project.
The railroad hearing proceeded like nothing else happened in the nation’s capital last week without any recorded votes held in the House or Senate. But the House held hearings from a distance.
Titus participated in six hearings last week, including one for the Homeland Security Committee’s Oversight, Management and Accountability subcommittee on the factors that drive people to migrate to the United States of Central America.
Other members of the delegation were also on the move, including Representative Steven Horsford (D-NV), who spoke to the Vegas Chamber on Monday about a new restaurant assistance program.
Titus, Representative Susie Lee (D-NV), Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) all joined First Lady Jill Biden, who visited Las Vegas on last week for an event. Biden too introduced the national teacher 2021 of the year, Juliana Urtubey of Las Vegas, with flowers.
The high-speed rail hearing was called Thursday by the Railways, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, of which Titus is a member.
Michael Reininger, CEO of Brightline, appeared before the subcommittee, but was not asked about a more specific timeline for the start of construction.
Reininger noted that Brightline “is negotiating construction contracts to be able to begin” work on the project from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.
“And during these negotiations, our favorite contractor is also in the middle of discussions with the workers around a project work contract that would be put in place,” Reininger continued. “We understand from both sides that these discussions are going very, very well. We are very supportive of these discussions and look forward to reaching an amicable conclusion. “
Titus has been a strong supporter of the Brightline West Project and asked Reininger what the committee could do to help. Reininger called for raising the ceiling on Private Activity Bonds (PABs), a type of municipal debt used to develop private sector projects, to $ 30 billion. Congress caps their use at $ 15 billion nationwide, making it competitive to receive PAB funding.
He also called for modifying the rules of certain rail financing programs in order to facilitate the participation of private rail projects. He cited the Railway Rehabilitation and Improvement Finance Loan (RRIF) program. The RRIF loan program designates high-speed rail projects as start-ups with no credit history and requires high premiums, which removes the benefits of a low interest loan.
These provisions could be found in the proposed $ 2 trillion infrastructure package known as the US Jobs Plan. A group of Republican and Democratic senators are working on a compromise measure after the GOP recently presented a $ 600 billion counteroffer.
Titus said she is considering plans to turn Las Vegas into an affordable suburb for the expensive metro area of Los Angeles.
“I don’t see it just as a tourist train, but as a business travel train and even some people can commute, live here for tax reasons, and get to work somewhere in California,” Titus said. .
Washington agreed it would open up affordable housing opportunities for Californians that don’t currently exist.
“If you can get from Vegas to Los Angeles in two and a half hours or something like that, it’s amazing,” Washington said. “They can go to Las Vegas to work or they can go to Los Angeles to work and still have affordable housing. So I think it’s a project of regional and national significance simply because of the economic benefits for people who otherwise wouldn’t have it, which is low-income people.
The projected passenger count for the rail line is 10.8 million people per year, Washington added.
The hearing on migration factors comes as the southern border has seen an increase in the number of migrants. The number of border crossings in April is expected to be around 170,000, as in March, and it is near a 20-year high.
During the hearing, Titus discussed the cascade of negative effects that would cause more people to migrate illegally to the United States if the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action programs for arrivals of children (DACA) were ending. The TPS allows nationals of countries affected by war or disaster to stay in the United States. The DACA protects immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children from deportation and allows them to work.
“I have a number of people from this region in my district, many of whom are TPS holders, especially from El Salvador and Honduras,” Titus said.
Dan Restrepo, a senior researcher at the Liberal Center for American Progress, said sending them home would end remittances, a scenario in which immigrants to the United States send money back to their home countries. Some countries rely on remittances to support their economies. Remittances, for example, to El Salvador hit a record high of $ 5.92 billion last year, representing 23% of El Salvador’s gross domestic product and benefitting around 360,000 households.
Sending TPS and DACA holders back to their home countries would also displace low-skilled workers who would feel pressured to migrate.
Restrepo called it a “lose, lose, lose” scenario.
“You would cut off a flow of remittances that kept people in place; you would displace a segment of the population vulnerable to migration, ”Restrepo said. “And … we would lose here in the United States with the people who are already members of our community.”
Titus also noted that food insecurity brought on by climate change has also been a major factor in pushing people to migrate.
“We have certainly seen how this exacerbates the problems of poverty in this Northern Triangle,” Titus said. “I think statistics from the United Nations World Food Program have shown that food insecurity in 2020 alone has increased from 1.6 – almost doubled to 3.3 million people.”
To address this issue, Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations said the United States could provide short-term food and work to help farmers respond to climatic conditions by changing crops in neighboring countries and improving markets for these products.
Representative Susie Lee (D-NV), a member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water Subcommittee, attended a Department of Energy (DOE) budget hearing .
The hearing has always been a platform to fight for funding for Yucca Mountain, the designated location for a national nuclear repository. But this year, when President Joe Biden was opposed to the project, Lee was the only one to directly raise the issue.
“Yucca Mountain has been both a political and a scientific failure for decades now with millions of dollars wasted and nothing to show for it, so I’m very encouraged that this administration is committed to developing an alternative,” Lee said. .
Lee asked Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm how the ministry would implement a consent-based siting policy to build a temporary nuclear waste repository.
“The ministry is actively developing a strategic approach to moving forward with this cited consent-based federal interim storage facility, which we are authorized to do,” said Granholm.
She said the DOE could issue a request for information or establish a funding mechanism for interested communities, organizations or tribal governments to explore the idea of agreeing to have a repository within their borders. .
“The department hopes to announce the next steps in this process in the coming months,” said Granholm.
Lee also said she was launching a nuclear waste caucus with Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), whose district includes Oak Ridge, which was the headquarters of the Manhattan Project.
Representative Steven Horsford (D-NV) last week highlighted the launch of the $ 28.6 billion restaurant revitalization fund created by the American Rescue Plan promulgated in March.
Under the program, eligible restaurants and other hospitality businesses, including caterers, bars, bakeries, breweries, wineries and inns, which have been forced to close to slow the spread of the coronavirus, can apply for program funding.
Horsford touted the program in his speech to the Vegas Chamber.
“Basically they’re taking your 2019 income, and your 2020 income, obviously a lot of restaurants, had to shut down due to the COVID restrictions placed on them,” Horsford said. “This fund allows people to apply, I believe it’s up to $ 10 million, to help them get over some of the loss they’ve suffered. It covers rent expenses, payroll, operational expenses including facilities, perhaps some of the improvements that had to be made during the COVID restriction.
For a full rundown of the measures delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada IndependentCongress vote tracking and other information below.
REPRESENTATIVE. SUSIE LEE
HR 2986 – Discourage speculative leasing of oil and gas and promote better multi-use management of public lands and lands in the national forest system, and for other purposes.
HR 2999 – Provide grants for the recruitment, retention and advancement of direct care workers.