Vegas-L.A. High-Speed Rail Funding Hits Half Mark, Field Tests Begin

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A rendering of a Brightline West high-speed train on I-15.
A rendering of a Brightline West high-speed train on I-15.
Brightline West

It appears the project to build a high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California has reached the halfway mark in funding, thanks to a recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The USDOT reports that it has approved a $2.5 billion allocation in private activity bonds for the Brightline West project to build 218 miles of rail line for trains traveling up to 186 mph.

The announcement follows approval of a $3 billion federal grant from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law announced in December and a $1 billion allocation in private bonds in 2020 by USDOT. The project also got a $25 million USDOT grant in June to build train stations in Hesperia and Victor Valley, California.

That puts funding so far at over $6.5 billion for the $12 billion project, which Brightline says will be “America’s first true high speed rail system.”

“Today, the Biden-Harris administration takes the next step to fulfill the promise of high-speed rail in the American West, with $2.5 billion in private activity bond authority to lay tracks, create jobs and connect American cities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

USDOT says the project will bolster tourism, create 35,000 jobs, ease traffic on I-15, and cut more than 400,000 tons of carbon pollution each year.

The private rail company Brightline, which built the first intercity passenger rail system in Florida, will build and run the rail system, which will mostly follow I-15 between the two states. The service’s flagship station will be in Vegas at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard and connect to Rancho Cucamonga, California. The Rancho Cucamonga station will connect to the regional Metrolink rail service, which extends to L.A.

Brightline plans to break ground on the project this year and complete it before the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 2028. The company recently reported that it has begun field investigation work in Nevada and Southern California within the proposed rail corridor to prepare for groundbreaking.

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“Field investigation work includes geotechnical borings and samplings, utility potholing and land surveying,” the company says.

“As the first true high-speed rail system in America, Brightline West will serve as the blueprint for connecting cities with fast, eco-friendly passenger rail throughout the country,” says Brightline founder and Chairman Wes Edens. “Connecting Las Vegas and Southern California will provide widespread public benefits to both states, creating thousands of jobs and jumpstarting a new level of economic competitiveness for the region. We appreciate the confidence placed in us by DOT and are ready to get to work.”

The future route for Brightline West, which the company hopes to have completed by the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.The future route for Brightline West, which the company hopes to have completed by the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.Brightline West