Ambitious plans for intercity passenger rail in Southern California are getting a big boost courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Yesterday, multiple reports indicated that Brightline West, the proposed high-speed rail line which would connect Las Vegas with Southern California, will receive $3 billion in federal funding. That total would cover roughly one quarter of the overall $12 billion price tag for the project, with the remainder to be accounted for through a combination of private investment and tax-exempt private activity bond allocations sales in both Nevada and California.

Map of the Brightline West systemBrightline West

Initially planned as a 170-mile system running between a station site just south of the Vegas Strip and Apple Valley, the plan for Brightline has since been expanded to 218 miles through the inclusion of a spur terminating at Rancho Cucamonga. There, passengers would be able to transfer onto Metrolink regional rail trains, providing a more direct path to Los Angeles Union Station.

The project, which will run mostly within leased right-of-way parallel to Interstate 15, would allow trains to travel at maximum speeds of 200 miles per hour, resulting in an end-to-end trip of approximately two hours and third minutes. Under current plans, construction of Brightline West is expected to begin in 2026, with passenger service set to begin as early as 2030. Two prior attempted groundbreakings had been postponed due to an inability to secure sufficient bond financing.

Simultaneously, California will be awarded $3.1 billion in federal funding for its own high-speed rail system - currently under construction in the Central Valley.

Aerial view of California High Speed Rail trains leaving Union Station through proposed run-through tracksCAHSRA

The funding award, confirmed via social media by Senator Alex Padilla, is a welcome infusion of money into the project, which is currently slated to open its 171-mile initial operating segment between Merced and Bakersfield near 2030. The first phase of the system, which has a less certain timeline, would have roughly 500 miles of track between San Francisco and the Los Angeles area, with stops in Palmdale, Hollywood Burbank Airport, Union Station, and Anaheim.

The Southern California segment of the project, which would open after the system reaches the Bay Area, is currently under environmental review.

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