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A high-speed rail line connecting Southern California with Las Vegas got $2.5 billion in bonds. Photo courtesy of Brightline West.
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US approves $2.5B for high-speed rail line to Las Vegas

REGION — A high-speed rail line connecting Southern California with Las Vegas got a major boost this week with the approval of $2.5 billion in bonds.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the funding on Jan. 23, via private activity bond authority allocated for the Brightline West High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail project. The 218-mile rail line will primarily run along the Interstate 15 median with trains capable of reaching 186 mph or more, cutting the trip to Las Vegas from the Los Angeles/Inland Empire area to 2 hours, 10 minutes – half the time to travel by car, officials said.

“Today, the Biden-Harris administration takes the next step to fulfill the promise of high-speed rail in the American West, with $2.5 billion in private activity bond authority to lay tracks, create jobs, and connect American cities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “President Biden’s historic infrastructure package gives us the opportunity to build safe, green, and accessible rail systems that will deliver benefits to the American people for generations to come.”

The $12 billion Brightline West project will be a fully electric, zero- emission system that officials say will be one of the greenest forms of transportation in the United States. The project is expected to bolster tourism, create 35,000 jobs, ease traffic on I-15 and cut more than 400,000 tons of carbon pollution each year.

The line will include a flagship station in Las Vegas, with additional stations in Apple Valley, Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga. The Rancho Cucamonga Station will also connect to Southern California’s regional Metrolink service, allowing for connectivity into downtown Los Angeles and beyond, including the southern Orange County/northern San Diego County border.

“As the first true high-speed rail system in America, Brightline West will serve as the blueprint for connecting cities with fast, eco-friendly passenger rail throughout the country,” Brightline Founder and Chairman Wes Edens said. “Connecting Las Vegas and Southern California will provide widespread public benefits to both states, creating thousands of jobs and jump- starting a new level of economic competitiveness for the region. We appreciate the confidence placed in us by DOT and are ready to get to work.”

The DOT previously approved a private activity bond allocation of $1 billion for Brightline West in 2020, bringing the total allocation for the project to $3.5 billion. In December, the DOT awarded a $3 billion grant from Biden’s infrastructure bill to the Nevada Department of Transportation for the project, and in June, the DOT awarded a $25 million grant to the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Program that will be used for the construction of Brightline West stations in Hesperia and Victor Valley, California.

Brightline officials say the project is near shovel-ready and expected to break ground in early 2024. The tentative goal is to have the line open by 2028, in time for the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

More information about the project can be found at brightlinewest.com.

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