Brightline West is a proposed privately run high-speed rail route. Formerly known as XpressWest, the line runs between Las Vegas Valley and Victor Valley, in the high desert area of Southern California.
The 170-mile electrified line will be built on leased property adjacent to I-15, beginning at the Apple Valley railway station. Construction is expected to begin in 2023, while passenger services might commence three years later, in 2026.
The developer estimates that the construction of Brightline West will cost approximately US$ 8bn.
Expectations for the Brightline West, Los Angeles to Vegas High-Speed Rail
Upon completion, Brightline West will have a top speed of 180 miles per hour and a journey time of around 90 minutes. Each train plying the route will have a capacity of 1,200 people and will run every 45 minutes.
The line will provide an alternative to air and automotive travel between Southern California and Las Vegas favorite holiday destination for many residents of the region.
Brightline West, Los Angeles to Vegas High-Speed Rail Project Timeline
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.
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 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 funding 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, and 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.”
Las Vegas High-speed rail construction coming soon
Speculation that the Las Vegas High-Speed rail line will be constructed next if Brightline gets a share of the US$2 trillion that US President Joe Biden has announced well as the budget for the infrastructure proposal. It includes US$80 billion dollars for new trains that would go a long way toward beginning to realize his vision.
Amtrak has already stepped up with a massive plan for Biden’s proposed rail dollars that would add dozens of new daily trains and connect 160 additional communities to passenger rail. And private rail operators Brightline in California Florida, and Texas Central are also eager for any additional federal funds to speed the construction of new lines.
A Las Vegas rail line would give travelers a new way to get to the popular holiday and convention destination. Los Angeles is the largest source of inbound visitors to Las Vegas in the U.S., with nearly 1.6 million visitors in 2019, according to Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority data. Brightline hopes to take a sizable share of those visitors who either fly or drive today.
Brightline pulled a US$3.2 billion tax-exempt bond sale in late 2020 on low investor appetite, and while Brightline CEO Michael Reininger said a new bond sale that would allow construction to begin is planned for this year, additional federal funds would be welcome and could speed up a future extension into the Los Angeles Basin.
Federal funds could also accelerate Brightline’s plans to extend its under-construction rail line between Miami and the Orlando airport onto Disney World and eventually Tampa. Work on the Orlando line passed the halfway mark in May with hopes to open by the end of 2022.
“The urgent economic and mobility needs of the nation require a more holistic approach that focuses on quickly improving and expanding our conventional network to serve more people and places with reliable service,” Amtrak CEO William Flynn told a U.S. House of Representatives committee as part of the push for additional funding in May.
Discussions are underway for Brightline West project funding and further connections
A bond-financing package is still being discussed, and there is optimism that the project would receive federal support as part of the recently enacted US$ 1.2tn infrastructure plan.
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.
Construction of Brightline West bullet train inches closer to reality
After reaching an agreement with a group of significant labor unions, Brightline, the corporation behind the project, expects construction on the bullet trains to begin this year. The train will transport people from Southern California to Las Vegas.
According to a news release, “13 rail unions representing more than 160,000 freight, regional, commuter, and passenger railroad workers in the United States” are a part of the alliance. They go by the name of the High-Speed Rail Labor Coalition. The International Railway Voyage stated that 2026 or 2027 is the projected completion date for the project.
Rancho Cucamonga will get a brand-new station that will be connected to current Metrolink service lines in San Bernardino and Los Angeles, allowing locals to take the bullet train to Las Vegas. The 218-mile rail route will allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. According to Brightline, they’ll be entirely electric and emission-free.
Furthermore, they estimate that this will eliminate 3 million cars going to Las Vegas. Thus, the project also promises to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. Business representatives anticipate that the initiative will reduce traffic on Interstate 15 and remove 400,000 tons of CO2 from highways yearly.
More on the Brightline bullet train project
The $10 billion project investment will produce financial gains as well. According to officials, building the train will generate close to 35,000 employment opportunities. Additionally, it will generate more than $10 billion in revenue. Further, it will result in the permanent creation of 1,000 jobs.
“Those who need to travel back and forth from Las Vegas won’t need to worry about a four-hour drive on the interstate anymore. According to Rancho Cucamonga City Manager John Gillison. If you exit the building, board a train, and travel two hours in the opposite way, you can be in Las Vegas.
Brightline Secures $25 Million Grant
Brightline West, a high-speed train project connecting Las Vegas and Southern California, has received a $25 million grant from the US Department of Transportation.
The grant was awarded through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with its Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program under the Biden Administration.
The grant to facilitate the construction of high-speed rail stations linking Vegas and SoCal
The US$ 25 million grant will be used for the construction of passenger stations in Hesperia and Apple Valley, California.
The project aims to provide a direct link between the High Desert, Rancho Cucamonga, downtown Los Angeles, and the East Valley, reducing the reliance on personal vehicles for daily commutes and improving air quality.
Brightline West’s ultimate financial success
However, the project’s ultimate success depends on securing a $3.75 billion grant from the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program, which Brightline West and the Nevada Department of Transportation applied for in April.
So far, the US Department of Transportation has approved $1 billion in private activity bonds, and the borrowing will be shouldered by the states of California and Nevada.