Private sector plans for a new passenger rail line connecting Las Vegas with Southern California have attracted new funding from the Federal government.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority has been awarded a $25-million grant to fund the design and construction costs of new stops on Brightline West. The money, which comes from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program, will go toward stations in Hesperia and Apple Valley.
Brightline West, a subsidiary of New York-based Fortress Investment Group, aims to build a fully-electric high-speed rail line which would drop passengers off just short of the Las Vegas Strip. Its $12 billion would include approximately 170 miles of new rail along leased right-of-way parallel to Interstate 15, running toward an interim terminus in Apple Valley.
Both stations which received grant funding would be located within the I-15 right-of-way. The proposed Apple Valley Station, located in the larger Victor Valley region, would sit on 300 acres of land located just southeast of I-15's interchange with Dale Evans Parkway. Likewise, the Hesperia stop would be located at the I-15's interchange with Joshua Street.
While Brightline West has sought to push farther into Southern California by connecting with the California High Speed Rail system via Palmdale, that connection may be decades away from fruition. In the meantime, Brightline has started planning for a separate 49-mile extension which would run through the Cajon Pass to Rancho Cucamonga, where passengers could then transfer onto Metrolink trains toward Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles.
The $12-billion project could allow for maximum speeds of up to 180 miles per hour, with an end-to-end trip of approximately two hours and thirty minutes. Streetsblog has previously estimated that an end-to-end trip between Union Station and Vegas, including a transfer between Metrolink and Brightline, take roughly three hour and thirty minutes.
“The High Desert stations are an integral component to our 218-mile system and will connect millions of residents with America’s first true high-speed rail system,” said Brightline West president Sarah Watterson. “We’re moving towards a groundbreaking later this year, kickstarting one of the largest job creators in the country and setting the stage for a new era in transportation. We are appreciative of our federal partners, the SBCTA and all those who support our system.”
Under current plans, construction of Brightline West is expected to begin in 2026, with passenger service set to begin as early as 2030. However, that is contingent on securing construction funds. The project's backers have twice delayed groundbreakings for the rail line, citing a lukewarm response for a bond offering.
New financing could be found through landmark $1-trillion infrastructure bill passed by the U.S. Congress in 2021, which includes money for intercity passenger rail lines. The Nevada Department of Transportation and Brightline West jointly applied for $3.75 billion in Federal-State Partnership Program funds in April 2023.
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