High-speed rail project connecting Las Vegas, Southern California has been granted $3 billion

Brightline West's high-speed rail project from Southern California to Las Vegas has scored $3 billion in federal funding.

The funds will help pay for the $12 billion project, which includes main stations in Rancho Cucamonga, Apple Valley, and Las Vegas, as well as a passenger stop in Hesperia.

President Joe Biden is expected to officially announce the grant award Friday in Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Congress has been notified of the grant award, the source confirmed to the Review-Journal.

Brightline and the Nevada Department of Transportation applied for the funds from $3.75 billion available from the Federal-State Partnership Program, part of the U.S. infrastructure bill.

Tax-exempt private activity bond allocations from both states and private capital would pay the remaining cost of the project.

Artist rendering of the Victor Valley Brightline West high-speed rail train station in Apple Valley.
Artist rendering of the Victor Valley Brightline West high-speed rail train station in Apple Valley.

Brightline West, which aims to be fully operational before the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, has already secured much of the permitting and project-labor agreements.

In a statement about the new funding, Brightline CEO Wes Edens thanked Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and called the funding announcement a "historic moment that will serve as a foundation for a new industry."

The funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which authorized spending more than $4.5 billion for intercity passenger rail funding for lines outside the rail-rich Northeast Corridor.

Rosen, who led congressional efforts to fund the high-speed line through letters and press conferences, called the announcement a “game changer” for the state’s tourism economy.

New Brightline advertisements have been seen in Las Vegas, which includes fencing along its proposed Las Vegas station, located on Las Vegas Boulevard between Warm Springs and Blue Diamond roads.

Brightline West’s 218-mile system will mostly run within the Interstate 15 right-of-way, with trains capable of 200 miles per hour.

The Rancho Cucamonga station will connect to Metrolink’s regional rail network, which includes stations in Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, San Diego, and Ventura counties.

No date was announced for work to start. But Rosen said electric-powered trains could carry passengers when Los Angeles hosts the Summer Olympics in 2028.

“We’re ready to get to work,” Wes Edens, founder and chairman of Florida-based Brightline, said in a statement ahead of a Friday event in Las Vegas that may coincide with a visit by President Joe Biden.

Rosen and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, both Democrats, led a bipartisan group including all of Nevada’s elected federal lawmakers and four House members from California that in April urged Biden to commit up to $3.75 billion in federal infrastructure funds toward what they call a public-private partnership.

Planners say trains carrying passengers at nearly 200 mph (322 kph) could cut in half a four-hour freeway trip from a station in Las Vegas through Victorville, California, to a suburban Los Angeles light rail line in the San Bernardino County city of Rancho Cucamonga.

They say the service could help alleviate weekend or end-of-holiday travel traffic jams that often stretch for 15 miles on I-15 near the Nevada-California line.

“Connecting Las Vegas and Southern California by high-speed rail will create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs, boost our Southern Nevada tourism economy, and finally help us cut down on I-15 traffic," Cortez Masto said Tuesday in a statement.

218 miles in two hours: High-speed rail between LA and Vegas can break ground by end of year, CEO says

Financial stops

The grant award brings hope to Brightline, who first eyed a groundbreaking for its West Coast line in 2020.

Every year since then, Brightline officials and those associated with the project have shared expectations of a groundbreaking by year’s end.

Brightline was ready to move dirt in 2020 after receiving tax-exempt private activity bond allocations from California, Nevada, and the Department of Transportation that infused $4.2 billion into the project.

However, 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.

Artist rendering of the proposed Brightline West train station in Rancho Cucamonga.
Artist rendering of the proposed Brightline West train station in Rancho Cucamonga.

During that year, Brightline announced that Fortress Investment Group, its parent company, had put the brakes on the $8 billion privately financed XpressWest project when it could not complete financing.

In April 2021, Brightline West CEO Mike 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.

Florida-based Brightline Holdings LLC, which built the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railroad in the U.S., is expected to model the service line it began in 2014 on Florida's east coast. That route now links Miami and Orlando with trains reaching speeds up to 125 mph.

Other places where high-speed trains have been proposed include the 240 miles in Texas between Dallas and Houston and a 500-mile system linking Los Angeles and San Francisco that has faced swelling costs, funding questions, and other delays.

This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: LA-to-Las Vegas high-speed rail project scores $3 billion in funding