Plans include a rail stop in Rancho Cucamonga, California

Construction begins on $12 billion rail line between Las Vegas and L.A.

April 23, 2024

Construction has begun on a $12 billion high-speed passenger rail line connecting Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area.

Brightline West, whose sister company already operates a fast train between Miami and Orlando in Florida, plans to lay 218 miles of new track between Las Vegas and another new facility in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

Brightline West is one of two high-speed rail projects planned for California. The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is overseeing construction of an 800-mile high-speed line that will eventually connect Sacramento and San Diego. The DOT in December awarded a $3.1 billion grant from the BIL to accelerate construction of the first segment of the system in California’s Central Valley.

The federal government has supported the project with significant funding and finance awards, including a $3 billion grant and $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds. The DOT previously issued $1 billion in private activity bonds for the project in 2020.

The DOT also awarded a $25 million grant to the San Bernardino Transportation Authority in June to build stations in Hesperia and Victor Valley, California.

The goal is to have the Las Vegas-Los Angeles rail operating in time for the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028, Brightline said.

Most of the track will be built in the median of Interstate 15, with a station stop in San Bernardino County’s Victorville area.

The project is touted as the first true high-speed passenger rail line in the nation, designed to reach speeds of 186 mph, comparable to Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains.

Brightline’s Southern California terminal will be at a commuter rail connection to downtown Los Angeles.

The electric-powered trains will cut the four-hour trip across the Mojave Desert to a little more than two hours, Brightline said. Forecasts are for 11 million one-way passengers per year, or some 30,000 per day, with fares well below airline travel costs.

Officials hope the train line will relieve congestion on I-15, where drivers often sit in miles of crawling traffic while returning home from a Las Vegas weekend.

The Las Vegas area, now approaching 3 million residents, draws more than 40 million visitors per year. Passenger traffic at the city’s Harry Reid International Airport set a record of 57.6 million people in 2023. An average of more than 44,000 automobiles per day crossed the California-Nevada state line on I-15 in 2023, according to Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority data.

Florida-based Brightline Holdings launched the Miami-to-Orlando line in 2018 with trains reaching speeds up to 125 mph (200 kph).

It expanded service to Orlando International Airport in September 2023.

Passenger trains to Las Vegas ended in 1997. The idea of a bullet train to Los Angeles dates to at least 2005 under various names including DesertXpress.

California voters in 2008 approved a proposed 500-mile (805-kilometer) rail line linking Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the plan has been beset by rising costs and routing disputes. A 2022 business plan by the California High-Speed Rail Authority projected the cost had more than tripled to $105 billion.

Photo courtesy of Brightline West

Miles Smith

Miles Smith has more than two decades of communications experience in the public and private sectors, including several years of covering local governments for various daily and weekly print publications. His scope of work includes handling public relations for large private-sector corporations and managing public-facing communications for local governments.

Smith has recently joined the team as a content writer for SPI’s news publications, which include Texas Government Insider, Government Contracting Pipeline and its newest digital product, Government Market News, which launched in September 2023. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s in journalism.

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