From Sin City to the City of Angels, building starts on high-speed rail line

LAS VEGAS– Work will begin Monday on a $12 billion high-speed passenger rail line between Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area. Officials predict that millions of ticket buyers will board the train by 2028.

Brightline West, whose sister company already operates a fast train between Miami and Orlando, Florida, wants to build 221 miles of new track between a new terminal to be built just south of the Las Vegas Strip and another new facility in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Nearly the entire distance will be constructed in the median of Interstate 15, with a station stop in the Victorville area of ​​San Bernardino County.

In a statement, Brightline Holdings founder and chairman Wes Edens called the moment “the foundation for a new industry.”

Brightline aims to connect other U.S. cities that are too close for flying between to be meaningful, and too far for people to travel the distance, Edens said.

CEO Mike Reininger has said the goal is to have trains running in time for the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will participate in the groundbreaking on Monday. Brightline received $6.5 billion in support from the Biden administration, including a $3 billion grant from federal infrastructure funds and approval to sell an additional $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds. The company received federal approval in 2020 to sell $1 billion worth of similar bonds.

The project is touted as the country’s first true high-speed passenger rail line, designed to reach speeds of 300 km/h, comparable to Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains.

The route between Vegas and LA is largely open space, with no convenient alternative to I-15. Brightline’s Southern California terminal will be on a commuter rail link to downtown Los Angeles.

According to the project overview, electric-powered trains will cut the four-hour journey through the Mojave Desert to just over two hours. It is predicted that there will be 11 million single passengers annually, or about 30,000 per day, with fares well below airline travel costs. The trains offer toilets, WiFi, food and drink sales and the option to check in luggage.

Las Vegas is a popular driving destination for Southern Californians. Officials hope the rail line will ease congestion on I-15, where motorists often sit in miles of traffic as they return home after a weekend in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas area, now home to nearly 3 million residents, attracts more than 40 million visitors each year. Passenger traffic at the city’s Harry Reid International Airport set a record of 57.6 million people in 2023. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, an average of more than 44,000 cars per day crossed the California-Nevada state line on the I in 2023. 15. facts.

Florida-based Brightline Holdings already operates the Miami-Orlando line, with trains reaching speeds of up to 125 mph. It launched the service in 2018 and expanded service to Orlando International Airport last September. It offers 16 round trips per day, with single tickets for the 230-mile (378-kilometer) distance costing about $80.

Other fast trains in the US include Amtrak’s Acela, which can reach a top speed of 150 miles (241 km) per hour while sharing tracks with freight and commuter traffic between Boston and Washington, DC.

Ideas have been floated in recent years to connect other US cities with high-speed rail, including Dallas to Houston; Atlanta to Charlotte, North Carolina; and Chicago to St. Louis. Most have experienced delays.

In California, voters in 2008 approved a proposed 500-mile (805-kilometer) rail line connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the plan has been plagued by rising costs and disputes over the route. A 2022 business plan from the California High-Speed ​​Rail Authority projected costs more than tripling to $105 billion.