Nevada Newsmakers

News - October 3, 2023 - by Ray Hagar

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Nevada's 1st U.S. House District Rep. Dina Titus, D-Lv, has been pushing for a high-speed train between Southern Nevada and Southern California for a long time, she said recently on Nevada Newsmakers.

"I was put on the California/Nevada Speed Train Commission under Bob Miller when he was governor, a Democrat," Titus said about a governor who served from 1989 to 1999. "(Gov.) Kenny Guinn, a Republican kept me on there. And then (so did Gov.) Jim Gibbons. I don't think he even knew it existed."

Gibbons, of course, defeated Titus in the 2006 gubernatorial race in 2006 by four percentage points.

"So I stayed there," Titus, the former state Senate Minority Leader, said about the high speed train commission. "So I've been pushing the speed train for a long time. And now, (as a member) in the (U.S. House) Transportation Infrastructure Committee, I'm still a strong proponent of it."

Titus and the rest of the speed-train proponents are on the cusp of a major success, when it comes the Brightline project for a high-speed rail system between Southern California and Southern Nevada.

Brightline and the Nevada Department of Transportation have jointly applied for a $3.75 billion grant from the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant program for a 218-mile rail line.

If that grant application is OKed, then the "shovel ready" project can begin, Titus said.

"If that money comes through, everything else is in place," she told host Sam Shad during a late September interview in Washington D.C. "They're ready to go."

Titus feels optimistic about Brightline and NDOT being awarded the nearly $4 billion grant from the Department of Transportation.

"In fact, just yesterday, (transportation) Secretary Pete (Buttigieg) was before our committee, and I asked him about it," Titus said.

"He (Buttigieg) wouldn't commit on the record that we are one of the projects that will be funded," Titus said. "But his response was very positive and he highlighted all the things that we've been arguing.

"It's multi-state, so it will have a regional impact around the Southwest," Titus continued. "Bipartisan people from both parties are supporting it. You've got labor agreements in place. You've got the site of the stations already located. You got the environmental impact studies done. You've got some private financing.

"It's ready to go if they can get those federal dollars," Titus said. "There's a lot of money in speed trains because both the secretary and the President support it."

Overall, the project is expect to cost about $12 billion. The remaining cost of the project would be funded by tax-exempt private activity bond allocations from Nevada and California, and private capital, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The goal would be to have the rail system operational in time for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Brightline CEO Mike Reininger told the Review-Journal.

"My argument is don't just hand out little dribs and drabs," Titus said of the grant money. "Make a big investment to show this really can work."

In late September, Brightline began high-speed rail operations between Miami and Orlando, Fla. The opening of the 125-mile per hour train services marks the first privately-owned rail system in the U.S. in 100 years.

The train between Southern California and Southern Nevada, however, is expected to reach 190 mph, according to The Associated Press.

"You've got a test site in Florida that's already up and running so we know we can do it and it is time to do it," Titus said.

Titus said Brightline is a solid company with a positive track record that can take care of the rest of the financing if the federal grant is approved.

  "It's a proven company, that's looking at expanding," she said of Brightline. "They've shown they can do it in Florida."

Titus noted that currently, most of the federal grants for rail transportation goes to the Northeast U.S.

"The problem is so much rail money has always gone to the Northeast Corridor," she said. "That's where all the Amtrak is connecting. Boston, New York, Washington, Philadelphia. So we've just got to kind of break that old mold and show that we need rail in the Southwest as well."

RESORT HACKERS: Titus is the U.S. House representative for The Las Vegas Strip and she is sounding the alarm in Congress about the hacker gangs that recently broke into the computer systems of Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, costing each company millions.

"Well, I serve on (the U.S. House) Homeland Security (Committee), and that's where the cybersecurity is the issue," Titus said. "Unfortunately, we haven't been able to address it because the Republicans in the majority only want to talk about the border. But this is increasingly a problem.

"I have been in touch with the casinos. I've been in touch with the AGA (American Gaming Association), with Homeland Security and with the FBI about what's going on, what we need to do about it," Titus said. "They can't say too much because it is an investigation."

Caesars reportedly paid a multimillion-dollar ransom demand and it's operations were not seriously damaged, according to news reports. MGM didn't pay a ransom and endured nine days of chaos, costing millions, the Review Journal reported.

"The estimation of losses is millions (of dollars) a day. So this is serious," Titus said. "And if they can do it to one (casino-resort), they can do it to others. And if you fix it, they can hack that. I mean, that's just how that whole thing works."

Titus warned people not to trust all social media posts they see concerning the casino hacking.

"I would just say to the public, don't believe what's on Twitter," she said. "Let's wait until we can get the facts."However, federal attention is needed, Titus urged.

"It does point out the need to have a policy on increased security because it may not be a casino next time," Titus said. "Maybe it'll be a hospital, maybe it'll be a nuclear power plant. All of those things not only affect national security, but public health and security and the economy. "

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