Construction starting on $12 billion high-speed rail between SoCal, Las Vegas

The project is touted as the first true high-speed passenger rail line in the nation, designed to reach speeds of 186 mph.

ByIrene Cruz and staff KABC logo
Monday, April 22, 2024
Construction to start on high-speed rail between SoCal, Las Vegas
Once complete, Brightline's train will connect Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga in two hours.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. -- Construction is expected to begin Monday on a $12 billion high-speed passenger rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas.

Brightline West aims to lay 218 miles of new track between a terminal to be built just south of the Las Vegas Strip and another new facility in Rancho Cucamonga. That trip usually takes well over three hours by car.

The company says its fully-electric train will take just over two hours each way.

Almost the full distance is to be built in the median of Interstate 15, with a station stop in the Victorville area.

Forecasts are for 11 million one-way passengers per year, or some 30,000 per day, with fares well below airline travel costs. The trains will offer rest rooms, Wi-Fi, food and beverage sales and the option to check luggage.

In a statement, Brightline Holdings founder and Chairperson Wes Edens called the moment "the foundation for a new industry."

Brightline aims to link other U.S. cities that are too near to each other for flying between them to make sense and too far for people to drive the distance, Edens said.

The project is scheduled to be complete by the time Los Angeles hosts the Summer Olympics in 2028.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday will join Brightline leaders at the start of the construction in Vegas. Brightline received $6.5 billion in backing from the Biden administration, including a $3 billion grant from federal infrastructure funds and approval to sell another $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds. The company won federal authorization in 2020 to sell $1 billion in similar bonds.

The construction is expected to create jobs for many in Southern California.

"We're looking at thousands of jobs as a result of this and hundreds of millions of dollars of investments, and that impact is going to be felt for years to come," said Rancho Cucamonga City Manager John Gillison. "This project will have a big impact on California, and especially Southern California."

Other fast trains

The project is touted as the first true high-speed passenger rail line in the nation, designed to reach speeds of 186 mph (300 kph), comparable to Japan's Shinkansen bullet trains.

Florida-based Brightline Holdings already operates the Miami-to-Orlando line with trains reaching speeds up to 125 mph (200 kph). It launched service in 2018 and expanded service to Orlando International Airport last September. It offers 16 round-trips per day, with one-way tickets for the 235-mile (378-kilometer) distance costing about $80.

Other fast trains in the U.S. include Amtrak's Acela, which can top 150 mph (241 kph) while sharing tracks with freight and commuter service between Boston and Washington, D.C.

Ideas for connecting other U.S. cities with high-speed passenger trains have been floated in recent years, including Dallas to Houston; Atlanta to Charlotte, North Carolina; and Chicago to St. Louis. Most have faced delays.

In California, voters in 2008 approved a proposed 500-mile (805-kilometer) rail line linking Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the plan has been beset by rising costs and routing disputes. A 2022 business plan by the California High-Speed Rail Authority projected the cost had more than tripled to $105 billion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.