Las Vegas-to-California high-speed train project receives bipartisan backing from lawmakers

A project to build a bullet train connecting Las Vegas and California is receiving bipartisan backing. A congressional group from Nevada and the Golden State asked the Biden administration on Monday to fast-track federal funds for a private company seeking to build a high-speed rail line between the gambling hub and the Los Angeles area.

Brightline West is seeking $3.75 billion in federal funding from the Biden administration-backed federal infrastructure law for its High-Speed Rail project train from Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga, California. The company’s proposal has now received key support.

All six of Nevada’s elected federal lawmakers and four House members from California sent this week a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. They said they’re on board with the proposal to spend more than $10 billion to lay tracks along the Interstate 15 corridor, reports Associated Press.

The project would further drive visitation to the gambling mecca, as getting to Las Vegas from Los Angeles has always been problematic. Flying is fast but expensive, while driving is cheap but slow.

Electric-powered trains could potentially cut the four-hour trip from Nevada to California in half, carrying passengers at speeds of nearly 200 mph while avoiding traffic jams on the interstate that cause serious lag for motorists. 

“This project is a major priority because it will make southern Nevada more accessible to millions of visitors each year,” said U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, the Nevada Democrat leading the group, as per AP. She said it “will boost our economy and create more good-paying jobs.”

Union labor will be used during construction, the company and the Southern Nevada Building Trades Union have announced in recent weeks. The project could be “the blueprint for how we can connect major city pairs that are too short to fly and too far to drive,” said Mike Reininger, CEO of Florida-based Brightline Holdings.

The firm, which is the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railroad in the United States, projects 35,000 construction jobs, 1,000 permanent jobs and reduced planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles as a result of the project.

Last October, a draft environmental assessment of the Nevada-California project was made public. The Federal Railroad Administration is now expected to finalize permits in July. Brightline Holdings says about 70% of funding will be private, using a combination of debt and equity.

Brightline West trains would connect Las Vegas, Victorville, California, and Rancho Cucamonga — a city in San Bernardino County with a passenger station on a suburban Los Angeles light rail line.

This bipartisan delegation from Nevada and California are pleased to support the federal resources necessary to develop essential transportation access between this highly trafficked corridor,” the lawmakers said.

LA is the top market of origin for Las Vegas visitors, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, 1.6 million Angelenos visited “Sin City,” reports Spectrum News. Approximately 50 million one-way trips are made annually between these two destinations with 85% of them by car or bus.

At full operations, Brightline expects to attract approximately 12 million one-way trips each year. Amenities for travelers would include free onboard WiFi, ADA accessibility from station to train, a wide selection of food and drinks, checked luggage, and hotel check-in services.