I’ve been working on environmental documents – EISs, EIRs, MNDs, you name it – for well over a decade. Usually the release of an environmental report barely garners a paragraph in a local newspaper. If it’s a really large or highly controversial project, maybe a bit more splash.
So it was a very surprising and professionally satisfying experience last week to see no less than a sitting US Senator and the United States Secretary of Transportation announce – before a bank of TV cameras, I might add – the release of the Final EIS for the DesertXpress High-Speed Passenger Rail project.
Friday’s press conference was held on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where Secretary of Transportation Ray La Hood, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and others announced this milestone in the environmental process for DesertXpress. I’ve been working on the DesertXpress EIS process since my first day at Circlepoint nearly five years ago, assisting the Federal Railroad Administration in publishing first a Draft, then a Supplemental Draft, and now this Final EIS. It’s been a highlight of my professional career to manage this project.
When your project corridor is nearly 200 miles long, the list of issues can stretch nearly as far. Smaller projects than this have taken much longer to complete the environmental process. I’ve been particularly proud of how we’ve completed these documents in the true spirit of NEPA – fostering a greater public understanding of the issues and factors at hand. The document is readable and accessible well beyond train aficionados.
This represents the first-ever Final EIS for a privately funded high-speed passenger rail system in the US. As an environmental consultant, I have to step back and ask: how cool is that? (Answer: pretty cool!)
Apparently, even the local media saw the “cool” factor: here’s how they covered the event:
- DesertXpress High Speed Rail on the Fast Track to Nevada
- DesertXpress high speed rail project rolls forward
Secretary La Hood called the release of the Final EIS a “significant step for high speed rail” in America and thoughtfully articulated the Obama Administration’s well-known interest in developing a national high-speed rail network.
In another “how cool is that” moment, Secretary La Hood even took time backstage to thank the Circlepoint team (led by CEO Scott Steinwert, pictured left of the Secretary) for a job well done!
So while most people come to Las Vegas hoping to be dazzled by the endless opportunities for entertainment, I left feeling pretty dazzled but in a very different way. Seeing such high-ranking government officials celebrate the completion of the Final EIS was for this environmental consultant the equivalent of getting to say “Blackjack!”
For more info on the DesertXpress EIS process, see the FRA’s website.
For more info on the DesertXpress proposal, see the applicant’s website www.desertxpress.com.
Photo credits: John Cook