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.”