Another year, another push toward the ever-elusive finish line for Brightline West, the proposed high-speed rail line which would link Southern California with Las Vegas.
Earlier this year, Brightline struck an agreement with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority and the City of Rancho Cucamonga for acquire five acres of land next door to the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station, where the project's backers aim to construct one of the two western termini for the project.
Late last month saw the release of the project's federal environmental assessment, another key hurdle standing in the way of a groundbreaking. Streets blog California reports that public hearings for Brightline West are set to occur on Saturday, November 12, and Tuesday November 15.
Brightline West, a subsidiary of New York-based Fortress Investment Group, has already secured approvals for the construction of 170 miles of electrified rail line on leased right-of-way parallel to Interstate 15, starting from a station near the Las Vegas Strip and running toward the unincorporated community of Apple Valley in San Bernardino County.
The new environmental study specifically relates to a 49-mile extension of the as-yet unbuilt service through the Cajon Pass to Rancho Cucamonga, where Brightline passengers could transfer onto Metrolink trains which reach Downtown Los Angeles. The corridor would also include one intermediate station, located in Hesperia, and offer an end-to-end trip of 35 minutes with 45-minute headways.
Trains on Brightline West are expected to run at speeds of up to 180 miles per hour, with an end-to-end trip of roughly two hours and thirty minutes. Combined with a transfer to Metrolink, Streetsblog estimates that would amount to a roughly three hour and thirty-minute ride between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, versus a roughly six-hour trip by car.
If things go according to current plans, construction of Brightline West is expected to begin in 2026 and begin serving passengers as early as 2030. However, that is contingent on securing construction funds, with the project’s backers looking at a mix of public dollars and private investment to cover costs.
Brightline, which is envisioned as an overall 260-mile system, has claimed to be on the cusp of beginning construction before. Groundbreakings were tentatively expected in 2020 and 2021, but were unceremoniously delayed due to difficulties relating to funding - or rather, a lack thereof. However, with the federal environmental study, Brightline West can now potentially tap into a new source of funds: the $1-trillion infrastructure bill signed into law last year by President Biden.
In addition to plans to push deeper into San Bernardino County, Brightline West could also link with the nascent California High-Speed Rail system through the High Desert Corridor, a proposed 54-mile connector line between Palmdale and the Victorville area. That would provide Brightline trains a direct route to Los Angeles Union Station - a much easier starting point for Angelenos looking to visit Las Vegas. Accordingly, the project's backers estimate that Brightline West would attract roughly 12 million one-way trips each year - nearly one quarter of the 50 million trips that already occur between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
- Brightline (Urbanize LA)