Brightline, Caltrans to sign pact for Apple Valley to Rancho Cucamonga rail line
The California Department of Transportation and Brightline West plan to enter a right-of-way use agreement for a portion of the high-speed rail project along Interstate 15 between Apple Valley and Rancho Cucamonga via the Cajon Pass.
The agreement is designed to advance the development of the privately owned and operated electrified rail project that will connect Las Vegas to Southern California.
The issuance of a notice of intent on Friday kicked off a 15-day public comment period for the proposed lease agreement between Caltrans and Brightline West.
Both entities previously executed a similar agreement to use a portion of the I-15 right of way between Apple Valley and the California/Nevada border.
Together, these leases will allow the construction of approximately 185 miles of a 218-mile high-speed rail system designed to connect Las Vegas and Southern California with a fully electric, emission-free system that will include stations in Rancho Cucamonga, Hesperia, Apple Valley, and Las Vegas.
Commuters from the Rancho Cucamonga station can board a Metrolink train bound for Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California.
According to Brightline West, the project will bring significant environmental and economic benefits, including the projected elimination of 3 million cars annually and the reduction of more than 400,000 tons of carbon emissions yearly.
Brightline officials believe the $10 billion investment will have widespread economic benefits, including creating nearly 35,000 jobs during construction and more than $10 billion in economic impact.
Brightline West received $1 billion in private activity bonds from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help fund the project, Caltrans reported.
The states of California and Nevada will do the borrowing funds, Bloomberg News reported.
The notice of intent comment period provides the public and stakeholders an opportunity to give any feedback that they may have regarding the proposed lease.
Comments may be made in writing or electronically and will be accepted for 15 days ending at 5 p.m. on March 23. Following the comment period, Caltrans and Brightline West will consider the lease for signature.
Comments can be submitted via mail to Emily Leinen, California Department of Transportation, District 8 Office, 464 West 4th Street, 12th Floor, San Bernardino, California 92401. Or by email at Emily.Leinen@dot.ca.gov.
Construction of the line between Las Vegas and the Victor Valley has already been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, which released an environmental assessment report for the stretch through the Cajon Pass.
Caltrans, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Brightline West recently agreed to design and construct three wildlife overcrossing across I-15 and the future Brightline West high-speed rail system.
This dedicated overcrossing will provide a sustainable and safe path for wildlife – especially for bighorn sheep – over the existing northbound and southbound highway lanes and the future high-speed rail system to be built within the median.
Planning for a Southern California to Las Vegas high-speed rail system began in 2006 when the railroad administration completed a draft environmental plan for a project then known as DesertXpress.
The project passed through several developers and investors before Brightline acquired it in 2018.
In 2020, Brightline earmarked a groundbreaking after receiving tax-exempt private activity bond allocations from California, Nevada, and the Department of Transportation that infused $4.2 billion into the project.
But the groundbreaking never happened when the plan for bond sales was halted in early 2020 due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of investor enthusiasm for the train’s original Southern California terminus in Apple Valley.
During that year, Brightline announced that Fortress Investment Group, its parent company, had put the brakes on the then $8 billion privately financed XpressWest project when it could not complete financing.
In April 2021, Reininger predicted that construction of the line would start “in a matter of weeks” if there were no further delays to the project, according to Railway Journal.
Town spokeswoman Shannon Dunkle in December told the Daily Press, "The project will continue seeking funding in early 2023 with an expected construction start date in late 2023.”
The RJ article stated that if work proceeds as planned, the line could open in 2026 or 2027.
Transportation leaders are eyeing the opening of the rail system in time for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.
This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: Brightline, Caltrans to ink pact for rail line from Apple Valley south