Updated August 2, 2022 - 9:29 am
For years there’s been talk about a high-speed train between Las Vegas and Southern California, but that train has yet to leave the station.
A few scheduled groundbreaking dates have come and gone with no action, with the most recent one spoiled by the pandemic in 2020.
Now the company behind the project, Brightline West, is targeting the end of this year to get construction started and finally get tracks laid for what is hoped to be a transportation revolution between Southern Nevada and California.
Gov. Steve Sisolak has long been involved in some capacity with the high-speed train project. After decades of hearing about the train, he believes this will be the time the project finally comes to fruition.
Part of that confidence is the building activity announced for the area surrounding the site of Brightline’s planned Las Vegas terminal just off the Strip.
Brightline West is looking to construct its station on a portion of 300-plus acres on Las Vegas Boulevard, sandwiched between Warm Springs and Blue Diamond roads.
There are a bevy of plans for some of the remaining acreage. Those include a $3 billion resort/arena project headed by Oak View Group and a potential Major League Soccer stadium, led by a group that includes Wes Edens, who is also co-CEO of Fortress Investment Group, which owns Brightline.
Sisolak said the site has the potential to be a hub and with substantial funding from each state in place, via private activity bonds, he believes the time is right for the train project.
“I’ve been hearing about the train for almost 30 years, at least 30 years … a long, long time,” Sisolak told the Review-Journal last month. “I’ve talked to (California) Governor Newsom, and they’ve got their bonding set; we’ve got our bonding set.”
Sisolak also has had conversations about the project on the federal level.
“Talked to Secretary (Pete) Buttigieg three or four times on this,” Sisolak said. “I went back to Washington to talk to him about the train. He understands how important it is. Not just on the transportation end, but it frees up the supply chain on that corridor there. It creates a lot of good-paying jobs, and it’s going to keep our economy going.”
Brightline is looking at two key dates this fall that should help push the project forward.
One is in October when federal and state high-speed rail grants will be released.
The other comes at the end of November when the Federal Railroad Administration is expected to announce the results of the environmental review and permitting for a 49-mile extension of the rail line between Victor Valley and Rancho Cucamonga.
“Brightline West has key agreements in place related to property for the right of way and stations for the project between Las Vegas and Victor Valley, California,” Sarah Watterson, Brightline West president, said in a letter last month to the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority. “The company has been working closely with Caltrans and other stakeholders to advance final agreements for the right of way to connect the Victor Valley station to a Rancho Cucamonga, California, station.”
Plans call for the system to include train stations in Hesperia, California, Rancho Cucamonga, Victorville and Las Vegas. Those looking to travel into Los Angeles will have to connect to the Metrolink at the Rancho Cucamonga transit hub.
Trains are expected to operate on 45 minute-intervals between Rancho Cucamonga and Victor Valley with trips between the two destinations taking about 35 minutes, the FRA background material states.
The full trip between Las Vegas and Los Angeles will be 260 miles long with the trip between the two cities — on zero-emission electric trains traveling at speeds of up to 180 mph — expected to take about 3 hours. The project’s cost was last estimated to be about $8 billion.
Edens told the Review-Journal earlier this year that the project is at the 1-yard line, and is expected to reach the end zone by the end of this year.
“A train system that was originally thought to be Vegas to Victorville, in the middle of the desert, to now, all the way to L.A.,” Edens said. “I think that is a game changer.”