CA/NV: The electric rail to Las Vegas keeps rolling with new federal funding approved

Jan. 26, 2024
The proposed electric passenger train, which won a $3-billion federal grant in December, got another boost Tuesday when the Biden administration approved $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds for the $12-billion project.

The high-speed rail project between the Inland Empire and Las Vegas, scheduled to be complete before the 2028 Olympics, continued to roll toward completion with the approval of additional federal funding.

The proposed electric passenger train, which won a $3-billion federal grant in December, got another boost Tuesday when the Biden administration approved $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds for the $12-billion project.

The 218-mile trip on the train from Rancho Cucamonga to Las Vegas will take more than two hours, with stops in Hesperia and Apple Valley, according to Brightline, the company in charge of the project.

Brightline completed a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Miami last year.

Trains on the new line will reach speeds of 200 mph. The company already has the federal permits, the labor agreements and the land — a swath in the wide median of Interstate 15 — to build the line. Construction is expected to begin early this year.

The bond money will allow Brightline West to "lay tracks, create jobs, and connect American cities," as part of a push "to build safe, green, and accessible rail systems," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Angelenos wishing to take the service to and from Las Vegas will have to board at Rancho Cucamonga via the Metrolink commuter train station in Downtown Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the state's infamous bullet train, which aims to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, also recently received an additional $3.1 billion in federal grant money late last year.

That first segment of that train is supposed to begin operation by 2030, and when fully complete the bullet train would convey passengers from one city to the other in under three hours.

The first segment of the line, dubbed by critics as the "Train to Nowhere," is 171 miles long and will connect Merced to Bakersfield. The distance for the train to Las Vegas is almost 50 miles longer, with a tighter deadline.

"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 in a statement.

"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," he said.

As California seeks to electrify its grid and move away from fossil fuels, electric high-speed rail could help to cut transportation emissions, experts say. The state's budget shortfall has forced Gov. Gavin Newsom to make cuts, putting climate programs on the chopping block.

The state will receive billions in federal funding for electrified rail projects while Newsom's proposed 2024-25 budget is expected to cut nearly $3 billion from state climate programs and delay almost $2 billion more.

Times staff writer Rachel Uranga contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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