News & Reviews News Wire Brightline West groundbreaking set for Monday

Brightline West groundbreaking set for Monday

By Trains Staff | April 19, 2024

Southern California-Las Vegas high speed line to mark start of construction

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A rendering of a Brightline West high speed train. Groundbreaking for the Las Vegas-Southern California project is set for Monday. Brightline West

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The Brightline West project is about to get its official kickoff.

While various surveying and other preparation work has been in progress for several months, a formal groundbreaking ceremony is set for Monday in Las Vegas at the planned site for the high-speed project’s Las Vegas station. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Brightline founder Wes Edens, along with other federal officials, state officials from Nevada and California, and local figures, are slated to attend.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal was first to report the event; Brightline had extended media invitations previously, but on a “for information only” basis.

The 218-mile route will mostly follow the right-of-way of Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where it will offer a connection to Metrolink commuter rail service to reach downtown Los Angeles and other Southern California locations.

“This is the physical action that we’ve been waiting for, for decades,” Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft told the Review-Journal. “… It will boost our economy, provide efficient transportation alternatives and continue the success of all that we have worked for.”

Map of high speed route between Las Vegas, Nev., and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
The Brightline West route. Brightline West

The project has advanced where most other high-speed proposals have floundered by obtaining necessary environmental clearance and lining up significant funding. The most recent environmental milestone was approval for the 49-mile segment between Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville, the original planned terminus [see “FRA gives environmental go-ahead …,” Trains News Wire, July 20, 2023]. Victor Valley is still planned as the high-speed route’s only intermediate station.

On the financial side, the project received a $3 billion federal grant under the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program last December [see “Legislators say Brightline West will receive $3 billion …,” News Wire, Dec. 5, 2023]. It was cleared for another $2.5 billion in private activity bonds by the U.S. Department of Transportation earlier this year [see “DOT awards Brightline West $2.5 billion …,” News Wire, Jan. 23, 2024]. The total cost of the project is expected to be about $12 billion; private capital and debt will account for the rest.

Brightline West is projecting a travel time of 2 hours, 10 minutes between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga on the electrified route, with trains operating at up to 200 mph. The company has said it expects construction to take four years and has a goal of opening the system in time for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

12 thoughts on “Brightline West groundbreaking set for Monday

  1. I was heavily involved with the Brightline West project from its inception while with the FRA Office of Safety, Passenger Rail Division until my retirement in 2022. I also believe that this will be built and and be an effective High Speed Rail system. I wish the Brightline West team well and will be attending in spirit for this important groundbreaking.

  2. Charles you may want to get more knowledgeable on the Brightline West route. Rancho Cucamonga is not in the isolated desert. It’s in heavily built up suburban LA. And it’s not just somewhere in LV but on Las Vegas Blvd just a few miles from the strip.

    1. Yes, Charles your are referring to eXpress West’s (the company Brightline bought) former terminal station in Victorville – a high desert city just north of Cajon Pass. Most people were not going to drive one-third of the way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and then change to the train.

      EXpress West selected Victorville so as to induce the CAHSR Authority to subsidize a high speed line down the middle of the now scuttled Higher Desert Freeway between Victorville and Palmdale. They were counting on the CAHSR to allow them to use their route to downtown LA. That probably will not happen in our lifetimes.

      I remember attending a Desert Express/eXpress West presentation over fifteen years ago where the spokesman said it would be prohibitively expensive and not viable for them to acquire land and construct new tracks to LAUPT. In other words, if they built the easy parts in rural America, and if enough people were using it, then government would come finance and build the expensive and difficult parts. After their federal loan proposal was denied, they were floundering until Brightline bought them out.

    2. Charles Landey is cynical about EVERYTHING. He almost never has anything good to say about anything but fancies himself an expert on everything.

      So take what he says with a grain of salt.

  3. HA calif hasnt been able to get the high speed rail done in central calif just graffiti on the new bridges but o boy we will get vegas line done…..wake up guys we are being fleecing again

  4. If Brightline follows their success that they had in Florida, this project will get built on time and most likely on budget. It will probably be running before Cal High Speed Rail even gets their train sets, let alone operating them. Brightline will most likely happen in our lifetimes.

    1. I’m totally cynical about both railroads. I don’t see the passenger count that could justify Brightine’s capital investment. Brightline woud connect a park-ride in the isolated SoCal desert to an isolated train station somewhere in Las Vegas. Big deal. There are parking lots at LAX, Burbank, San Diego and Ontario airports, all of them closer to major population centers that Victorville is.

      I read on these pages that I-15 is heavily trafficked, so Bightline West is the answer. Lots of Interstate Highways are overloaded. Doesn’t stop people from driving on them. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven the I-294 Tri-State tollway in Illinois, headed from Wisconsin to Michigan, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, or Tennessee. Half the cars on the planet drive that road. The traffic count hasn’t kept me from driving it.

    2. @Charles: In this case I think you are being just a tad too cynical. I agree with Mr. Raimondi that we will see BW in our lifetimes. I do agree in that having a terminus out in the valley or on the plateau will be a near term detriment, only because it will force a 2 train ride, or people will simply drive to Rancho.

      If/when they get through service to LAUS I think it will do much better long term, and it will eventually happen.

      By not building expansive tunnels and using the same grades as highways saves time to market and a whole lot of money.

      As for comparing I-15 to the Tri-State Tollway, is a bit of a stretch. I-15 is a metro to metro highway, I-294 is a metro bypass. Metro to metro is conducive to passenger rail, metro bypass isn’t. The Chicago RTA did look at using the former EJ&E (now CN) as a passenger commute bypass, and it couldn’t garner the needed volumes to justify the funding and the study was closed.

      There are still alot of people who think Brightline Florida is a scam and eventually the operation will get dumped on the Florida taxpayer as a boondoggle. Florida is more tax adverse than California in this case. If BW were to flop, I could easily see Cali taking it over.

  5. “The project has advanced where most other high-speed proposals have floundered by obtaining necessary environmental clearance and lining up significant funding.”

    eXpress West failed not becuase of environment, but because no one, repeat no one could provide the level of liability insurance UP demanded for them to run on their rails. Now their gallery car hulks sit in Antelope Canyon collecting graffiti.

    1. It’s been 20+ years since I last drove I-15 in CA and I still remember what a nightmare it was. I can’t even imagine what it is like today.

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