WASHINGTON U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Thursday that $901 million will be awarded to various high-speed rail projects within the state of California. The proposed DesertXpress project connecting Victorville to Las Vegas was not among them.

A total of $2.4 billion was given to 54 high-speed rail projects throughout the nation in the hopes of developing better inter-city passenger rail service. DesertXpress, the proposed high-speed train that would run from Victorville to Las Vegas, was ineligible for an award because it is a private corporation, said Rob Kulat, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration.

"[DesertXpress] would have been eligible if the state had put in an application on their behalf," said Kulat.

The DesertXpress high-speed train would connect Victorville to Las Vegas but would not have a stop in Barstow. The company states that the train has an estimated cost of $6 billion, and could create the equivalent of 50,000 one-year construction jobs as well as 500 permanent jobs in Victorville.

Construction could begin as early as 2011 and the train could be operating at full capacity by 2014. Officials for the city of Barstow believe that the DesertXpress train will have a large negative impact on the city if it is built.

DesertXpress is privately owned, but mentioned at a recent press conference held by LaHood and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the company was applying for a federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan.

DesertXpress has spent $180,000 total in lobbying over the past four years, according to a report done by the Center for Responsive Politics. A total of $60,000 of the money lobbied was for the loan processing, according to quarterly lobbying reports filed by the lobbying firm for DesertXpress, Capital Partnerships LLC.

DesertXpress officials were unavailable for comment on Thursday afternoon.

Most of the funding received from the grant from the Department of Transportation will go to projects in the Central Valley, including $715 million to high speed rail projects that would connect Fresno to either Bakersfield or Merced.

Another $100 million went to the purchase of new locomotives and coaches for Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquin trains.

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(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com