Formerly known as XpressWest, Brightline West, a proposed privately run high-speed rail route between Las Vegas Valley and Victor Valley, in the high desert area of Southern California, is expected to break ground in 2023.
The 170-mile electrified line will be built on leased property adjacent to I-15, with a top speed of 180 miles per hour and a journey time of around 90 minutes beginning at the Apple Valley railway station. Each train plying the route will have a capacity of 1,200 people and would run every 45 minutes.
If the implementation of the Brightline West project that aims to provide an alternative to air and automotive travel between Southern California and Las Vegas-a favorite holiday destination for many residents of the region-begins in 2023, passenger services might commence three years later, in 2026.
The developer estimates that the entire project will cost approximately US$ 8bn. The company attempted to issue up to US$ 3.2bn in tax-exempt bonds in 2020, but the offer was canceled due to a lack of demand.
A bond-financing package is still being discussed, and there is optimism that the project would receive federal support as part of the recently enacted US$ 1.2tn infrastructure plan.
Plans for Brightline West line 63 mile interconnector
Transportation officials are also investigating the possibility of a 63-mile connector between Brightline and the developing high-speed rail project in the Antelope Valley that would allow the former to connect directly with Union Station.
Plans to build the high-speed rail extension from the Antelope Valley to Union Station have recently made a step forward after state officials certified the last Environmental Impact Report on the 14-mile extension from Burbank to Downtown Los Angeles. The City of Burbank objected to the extension arguing that the positioning of the train’s track could affect operations at Burbank Airport and the city’s drinking water supply.
Officials have not yet certified any environmental studies on the proposed Palmdale to Burbank or Los Angeles to Anaheim high-speed rail segments, however, Metro has anticipated certification and progression of these segments by putting new projects into motion to support the proposed construction.
Las Vegas to LA high speed rail construction confirmed to begin soon
Brightline West CEO Mike Reininger has confirmed that construction of the Las Vegas to Los Angeles (LA) high-speed rail will still begin later on this year. Brightline, the country’s only privately owned passenger railroad, sent a letter to the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority in January and revealed the pandemic year created significant hurdles to fund the train expected to reach top speeds of 200 mph. The company had made progress with intentions to sell private activity bonds allocated for the project by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the states of Nevada and California to pay for construction.
Last year, Brightline announced that Fortress Investment Group, its parent company, had put the brakes on the US$8 billion privately financed XpressWest project when it could not complete financing. In January, Brightline West President Sarah Watterson said her company was preparing a revised financial plan that could see a second-quarter 2021 groundbreaking date. Meanwhile, Amtrak has implied plans to possibly install a new high speed rail line between Las Vegas and LA. If approved by Congress, President Joe Biden’s proposed US$2 trillion American Jobs Plan would provide US$80 billion to Amtrak to cover its backlog of repairs, modernize existing rails, and connect new city pairs.
“The world changed as a result of the pandemic, but we continued to work wherever we possibly could towards advancing the ball,” Reininger said. “The project remains a very high priority for us. The tenor of the financial markets today is dramatically different, the stock market is doing incredibly well, people are optimistic about a massive rebound in the economy, jobs are heading in the right direction. That gives us confidence about our ability to keep the project on track.” he added. “Everything and anything that gets Americans thinking about, talking about, and changing their habits towards trains as an acceptable and desirable mode of transportation, we are fervent fans of,” he said. “Our service, we believe, will be superior.”