Bullet Train Between Las Vegas and LA Still on Track, Despite Setbacks

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Las Vegas has been trying to figure out for years how to make it easier for non-state residents to visit the city’s casinos. One of the largest feeder markets for Sin City, according to studies, is Los Angeles, CA, and an initiative to make it easier for residents of that city to visit, a bullet train has been seen as the most suitable solution.

An initiative to put the rail project on track was begun years ago but never found enough support to cover the multibillion-dollar price tag. That appears to have changed now, however, as the company determined to introduce the bullet train asserts that the construction of the rail line will begin within the next couple of months.

The Train’s Coming, But No One Knows When

Brightline West is behind the construction of a rail line that would initially run from Victorville, CA, to Vegas, about 170 miles away. The Reno Gazette-Journal spoke with the company’s CEO, Mike Reininger, who explained that the line is “a very high priority,” even though funding has been an issue. The concept dates back to 2004 and has repeatedly encountered shortfalls in trying to cover the financing.

Brightline is owned by Fortress Investment Group, which tried to get its predecessor, XpressWest, off the ground last year. It was forced to back down after it couldn’t find enough interest to cover the $8 billion it was looking for. Now, however, Brightline has been able to garner support for private activity bonds provided by the US Department of Transportation, as well as both California and Nevada, to help cover the cost. The bonds have yet to be priced, according to Brightline, due to COVID-19 and “election uncertainty.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic climate begins to fade, despite major economic shortfalls, the project has been given new life. While there is no specific date for Brightline to begin construction, the company is confident that it will be able to break ground sometime during this quarter. There is also no specific date for when the construction will be complete.

Rail Competition Begins to Pick Up

Victorville sits a little less than three hours by car from Las Vegas and the bullet train would travel at up to 200 MPH on a more direct route than the highway. There would still be the need to cover the roughly one hour to Los Angeles for the line to be complete, but Brightline may not be the only company interested in a high-speed train serving the two cities. Amtrak might get involved, as well.

Amtrak has already announced that it might be interested in a bullet train between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, provided the federal government foots much of the bill. An initiative presented by President Joe Biden, the American Jobs Plan (AJP), would inject $2.5 trillion into the country’s economy and would directly give Amtrak $80 billion. The money would be expected to cover existing maintenance needs, update rails and introduce new connections.

The AJP still has to be approved by Congress, which won’t be an easy task. If it is, however, Brightline’s Reininger welcomes the idea of Amtrak getting into the race, explaining, “Everything and anything that gets Americans thinking about, talking about and changing their habits towards trains as an acceptable and desirable mode of transportation, we are fervent fans of. Our service, we believe, will be superior.”

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