Brightline West breaks ground on high-speed rail system connecting southern California and Las Vegas

April 23, 2024
The 218-mile system will be constructed in the middle of the I-15 in the western portion of the U.S.

Brightline West has broken ground on a 218-mile high-speed rail system that will connect Las Vegas to southern California. The rail line will be constructed in the middle of the I-15 in the western portion of the U.S. and is based on Brightline’s vision to connect city pairs that are too short to fly and too far to drive.  

Brightline West will run zero-emission, fully electric trains capable of speeds of 200 miles per hour. The project was recently awarded $3 billion in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The rest of the project will be privately funded and has received a total allocation of $3.5 billion in private activity bonds from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).  

“People have been dreaming of high-speed rail in America for decades – and now, with billions of dollars of support made possible by President Biden’s historic infrastructure law, it’s finally happening,” said USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Partnering with state leaders and Brightline West, we’re writing a new chapter in our country’s transportation story that includes thousands of union jobs, new connections to better economic opportunity, less congestion on the roads and less pollution in the air.” 

“Having high-speed rail in Las Vegas will electrify our economy in southern Nevada, and I’m thrilled to celebrate this milestone today,” said U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), who helped push to include many of the measures in the IIJA to solve transportation challenges. “This project is on track to create thousands of good-paying union jobs while cutting down traffic on I-15 and I’ll keep working with the Biden Administration to get this done as quickly as possible and continue delivering easier and cleaner transportation options for everyone in Nevada.” 

“This is a transformational investment in American trains,” said Rick Harnish, executive director of the High Speed Rail Alliance. “Getting a high-speed line in operation this decade will show Americans this terrific way to travel. If you have ever felt frustrated by traffic gridlock or airport hassles, a better future just got closer. “It’s urgent that we plan to bring these benefits to every region of our country. Just as the United States did for the Interstate Highway System, we need to establish a federal railway program that coordinates and supports the development of great train service. This means a combination of high-speed backbones, connected with regional rail networks to give people throughout the country the option to use fast, frequent affordable trains.” 

Construction of Brightline West 

Brightline West's rail system will span 218 miles and reach speeds of 200 mph. The route, which has full environmental clearance, will run within the median of the I-15 highway with zero-grade crossings. The system will have stops in Las Vegas, Nev., as well as Victor Valley, Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. 

The privately led infrastructure project is one of the largest in the U.S. and will be constructed and operated by union labor. It will use 700,000 concrete crossties, 2.2 million tons of ballast and 63,000 tons of 100 percent American steel rail during construction. Upon completion, it will include 322 miles of overhead lines to power the trains and will include 3.4 million square feet of retaining walls. The project covers more than 160 structures, including viaducts and bridges. Brightline West will be fully Buy America Compliant. 

Stations and facilities 

Brightline West will connect southern California and Las Vegas in two hours, or almost half the time as driving. The Las Vegas Station will be located near the iconic Las Vegas Strip on a 110-acre property north of Blue Diamond Road between I-15 and Las Vegas Boulevard. The site provides convenient access to Harry Reid International Airport, the Las Vegas Convention Center and Allegiant Stadium. The station is approximately 80,000 square feet, plus parking. 

The Victor Valley Station in Apple Valley will be located on a 300-acre parcel southeast of Dale Evans Parkway and the I-15 interchange. The station is intended to offer a future connection to the High Desert Corridor and California High Speed Rail. The Victor Valley Station is approximately 20,000 square feet, plus parking. 

The Rancho Cucamonga Station will be located on a five-acre property at the northwest corner of Milliken Avenue and Azusa Court near Ontario International Airport. The station will be co-located with existing multi-modal transportation options including California Metrolink, for seamless connectivity to downtown Los Angeles and other locations in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. The Rancho Cucamonga Station is approximately 80,000 square feet, plus parking. 

The Hesperia Station will be located within the I-15 median at the I-15/Joshua Street interchange and will function primarily as a local rail service for residents on select southbound morning and northbound evening weekday trains. 

The Vehicle Maintenance Facility is a 200,000-square-foot building located on 238 acres in Sloan, Nev., and will be the base for daily maintenance and staging of trains. This site will also serve as one of two hubs for the maintenance of way operations and the operations control center. More than 100 permanent employees will report on a daily basis once operations begin and will serve as train crews, corridor maintenance crews or operations control center teammates. A second maintenance of way facility will be located adjacent to the Apple Valley station.  

Economic and environmental benefits  

Brightline West's $12 billion infrastructure investment will create more than $10 billion in economic impact for Nevada and California and will generate more than 35,000 jobs, including 10,000 direct union construction roles and 1,000 permanent operations and maintenance positions. The investment also includes more than $800 million in improvements to the I-15 corridor and involves agreements with several unions for skilled labor.  

The project supports Nevada and California's climate goals by offering a no-emission mobility option that reduces greenhouse gases by more than 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually – reducing vehicle miles traveled by more than 700 million each year. 

About the Author

Brandon Lewis | Associate Editor

Brandon Lewis is a recent graduate of Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lewis is a former freelance editorial assistant at Vehicle Service in Endeavor Business Media’s Vehicle Repair Group. Lewis brings his knowledge of web managing, copyediting and SEO practices to Mass Transit Magazine as an associate editor.