LAS VEGAS (AP) — A planned high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area got a Biden administration pledge on Tuesday of $3 billion to help start laying track, Nevada elected officials said.
The $12 billion project led by Brightline West has been talked about for decades, and U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen told reporters that it now has all required right-of-way and environmental approvals, along with labor agreements, for work to start on some 218 miles (351 kilometers) along the Interstate 15 corridor.
No date was announced for work to start. But Rosen said electric-powered trains could be carrying passengers by the time Los Angeles hosts the Summer Olympics in 2028.
“We’re ready to get to work,” Wes Edens, founder and chairman of Florida-based Brightline, said in a statement ahead of a Friday event in Las Vegas that may coincide with a visit by President Joe Biden.
Rosen and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, both Democrats, led a bipartisan group including all of Nevada’s elected federal lawmakers and four House members from California that in April urged Biden to commit up to $3.75 billion in federal infrastructure funds toward what they call a public-private partnership.
Planners say trains carrying passengers at nearly 200 mph (322 kph) could cut in half a four-hour freeway trip from a station in Las Vegas through Victorville, California, to a suburban Los Angeles light rail line in the San Bernardino County city of Rancho Cucamonga.
They say the service could help alleviate weekend or end-of-holiday travel traffic jams that often stretch for 15 miles (24 kilometers) on I-15 near the Nevada-California line.
“Connecting Las Vegas and Southern California by high-speed rail will create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs, boost our Southern Nevada tourism economy, and finally help us cut down on I-15 traffic," Cortez Masto said Tuesday in a statement.
Calls for a high-speed rail line whisking tourists through the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas date at least to 2001, said U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat who represents the Las Vegas Strip. The proposal had starts, stops and various names over the years, before getting sidetracked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Florida-based Brightline Holdings LLC, which built the only privately-owned and operated intercity passenger railroad in the U.S., is expected to model the line on service it began in 2014 on Florida's east coast. That route now links Miami and Orlando with trains reaching speeds up to 125 mph (200 kph).
Other places where high-speed trains have been proposed include the 240 miles (386 kilometers) in Texas between Dallas and Houston, and a 500-mile (805-kilometer) system linking Los Angeles and San Francisco that has faced swelling costs, funding questions and other delays.