Thursday, March 5, 2009 | 2:07 a.m.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal misfired last month while aiming a shot at Las Vegas and the stimulus bill. “It (the stimulus bill) includes ... $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland,” Jindal said in contesting a speech by President Barack Obama that supported the bill.
Our Washington reporter, Lisa Mascaro, wrote a story correcting his televised mistake, but we wonder how many people outside of our state still believe what he said because congressional Republicans and right-wing commentators continue to make the false claims.
Mascaro wrote that, yes, there is $8 billion in the bill for high-speed rail. But the money does not have a project attached to it. Any regional commission or state government can apply for a portion of the money.
Many other countries have had high-speed rail systems for years, but officials here are still working on proposals for them.
That is a shame, because high-speed rail lines serve millions of travelers, save energy and employ thousands of people in their construction, maintenance and operation — perfectly fitting the goals of the stimulus bill.
The reality of a magnetic levitation train connecting Las Vegas to Anaheim is far from the image conveyed by Jindal. Listeners could easily have imagined that taxpayers were funding plans being drafted in well-appointed offices by high-paid engineers and administrators.
Las Vegas Sun reporter Brian Eckhouse wrote Tuesday about what is really happening. There is an incomplete proposal for a maglev line. It has been alive, but just barely, for more than 20 years. There is a public-private commission that backs such an idea, but it has accumulated just $50,000 toward a line that would cost at least $12 billion. The commission has a headquarters — in the Las Vegas home of retiree Richann Bender, the commission’s only, and unpaid, employee.
Bender has been associated with this project since 1981, and we admire her passion to see it through despite the barriers. Rather than the one spun by Jindal, her story is the one a nationwide audience should be hearing.