$2.5bn boost for Vegas-to-LA high-speed rail

Electric trains running at up to 200mph are expected to cut the 218-mile journey between greater Los Angeles and Las Vegas from more than four hours by car to two hours by rail (Map courtesy of Brightline West)
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has authorised another $2.5bn in private activity bonds for the 218-mile Brightline West high-speed railway planned between Las Vegas, Nevada and just outside Los Angeles, California.

It brings the Biden administration’s contribution to the scheme through bonds and grants to $6.75bn since 2020.

Private activity bonds give non-state investors a tax-exempt way of investing in ventures the government deems good for the public.

Biden’s 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law doubled the private activity bond allocation available for such projects around the country from $15bn to $30bn.

Just over half of the $6.75bn figure for Brightline West comes from the latest private activity bond allocation of $2.5bn, plus an initial such bond worth $1bn allocated in 2020.

The rest came last year from a grant of $3bn to the Nevada Department of Transportation for the project in December and, in June, a $25m grant to San Bernardino County, California for high-speed rail stations in Hesperia and Victor Valley.

All along the highway

Brightline West hopes to start building the railway this year.

When it’s running, it will cut the journey between greater Los Angeles and Las Vegas from more than four hours by car to two hours by rail.

At the Los Angeles end, the high-speed line terminates at the city of Rancho Cucamonga, an hour and ten minutes by train to LA’s Union Station.

Developer Brightline West says its electric trains running at up to 200mph will carry 11 million one-way passengers a year.

96% of the route is planned along the median strip of the Interstate 15 Highway, meaning trains will run between opposing lanes of traffic.

‘High-speed rail in the American West’

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the latest bond allocation fulfils Biden’s “promise of high-speed rail in the American West”.

“President Biden’s historic infrastructure package gives us the opportunity to build safe, green, and accessible rail systems that will deliver benefits to the American people for generations to come,” he added.

“High-speed rail in America is now beginning to take off,” said Andy Kunz, chief executive of advocacy group US High Speed Rail.

“This latest funding will give a major boost in confidence, not only for Brightline West but for bullet train projects in the Western US and across the country.”

According to the group, the Biden administration has provided early planning funding for new high-speed rail corridors, including:

  • Atlanta, Georgia to Charlotte, North Carolina;
  • Fort Worth to Dallas to Houston, Texas;
  • Palmdale to Victorville, California;
  • Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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