Brightline West has entered into agreements with several rail unions to build, operate and maintain the high-speed rail line from Las Vegas to a few different points in California
The estimated $8 billion project would connect Las Vegas to Los Angeles via a route alongside Interstate 15. There are planned stations in Las Vegas and in California in Victorville, Hesperia, and Rancho Cucamonga, where a connection with the Metrolink would carry passengers to and from downtown Los Angeles.
The Federal Railroad Administration recently released an environmental assessment report for the Cajon Pass portion of the project, a 49-mile extension of the track would run between the Victor Valley and Rancho Cucamonga. The assessment report noted the FRA determined that the Brightline project wouldn’t result in a significant impact to the environment or have a negative impact on low-income or minority populations. It also said that building the project was the FRA’s preferred option.
When the Brightline portion of service opens the Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga portion to service 5.6 million one-way rides annually, or 14 percent of the projected 49.1 million annual travelers between the two areas. That total jumps to 6 million passengers when adding the 380,000 projected person ridership between Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga.
By 2030, ridership is expected to increase to 7.6 million for Southern Nevada to Southern California line, with an 8.1 million total when adding the commuter passengers between Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga.
In 2035, Brightline forecasts ridership between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga to grow to 10.6 million. Total ridership, including the high desert commuters, would jump to 11.3 million.
By 2044, the last year of ridership projections provided in the report, the Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga line is projected to carry 11.5 million passengers and 12.3 million total with California commuters included.
When completed the rail line between Las Vegas and Los Angeles will be 260 miles long with the trip between the two cities — on zero-emission electric trains — expected to take about three hours.
A 65,000-square-foot terminal in Las Vegas is expected to be constructed on a portion of 110 acres of land owned by Fortress Investment Group, which owns Brightline through an affiliate. This station will be located on Las Vegas Boulevard between Warm Springs and Blue Diamond.
There will be a mix of Federal grants and private activity bonds for funding that Brightline would apply for in both Nevada and California, though the amount requested in each state could be less than was previously awarded.
Brightline previously was approved for $200 million in private-activity bonds in Nevada and $600 million in California. Internal Revenue Service guidelines would allow Brightline to market those tax-exempt bonds for up to four times their amount, or a combined total of $3.2 billion.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law last year could infuse increased funding for rail projects, such as high-speed rail. Details on what that could entail for projects such as Brightline’s is expected to be released by the end of the year. But that could lead to billions of dollars in federal grant funding for the Brightline West project.
The environmental assessment also notes the project would not only reduce passenger vehicles on the stretch of I-15, which would help ease freight strains and it would also decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
There has been talk about this train for years, and now it seems that it might really happen.
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