High-Speed Train from Southern California to Las Vegas Gets Bipartisan Support

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A bipartisan congressional group from California and Nevada asked the Biden administration on Monday to fast-track federal funds. The money would be used to assist Brightline West in building a long-sought, high-speed train line that would connect the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas.

The request from the 10 lawmakers is for $3.75 billion, and it will support Brightline West’s $10 billion proposal to put the line alongside Interstate 15. That corridor is estimated to carry 42.5 million one-way vehicle trips between L.A. and Las Vegas each year. Brightline West estimates that when running at full capacity, the train will carry 12 million one-way trips between the two destinations each year.

Continued Growth for Las Vegas

“The project is a major priority because it will make Southern Nevada more accessible to millions of visitors each year,” said Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV). “That means more people spending money at our hotels, restaurants, casinos, and small businesses, and attending conventions, sports competitions, and world-class special events, which will boost our economy and create more good-paying jobs.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) reported a record $79.3 billion in economic output from visitor spending in 2022, a 24.7% increase over the previous record set in 2019. Direct spending by visitors to Las Vegas was a record $44.9 billion in 2022.

Apart from the economic impact of making it easier for millions of visitors to travel to Las Vegas, the project is projected to create 35,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs. The letter from the lawmakers to US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also pointed to the redirection of “millions of automobile users from I-15 onto a faster, more efficient, zero-emission transportation option.”

The train proposed by Brightline West is 100% electric and is estimated to reduce what is a four-to-five hour trip by car from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (depending on traffic congestion) to two hours and 15 minutes. They also estimate the removal of three million cars from I-15 annually.

A rail connection already exists between Union Station in Los Angeles and Rancho Cucamonga in San Bernardino County, and that is where the high-speed line to Las Vegas would begin.

California’s Troubled Train Past

A high-speed train proposal to connect Los Angeles to Las Vegas has been talked about since the 1970s. More recently, talks heated up in 2005, with the first environmental plan from the Federal Railroad Administration completed in 2009. That railway was going to be called DesertXpress.

Brightline acquired the project in 2018, and its own environmental assessment was made public in October of 2022. The Federal Railroad Administration is expected to finalize its permits in July.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has been working on a San Francisco to Los Angeles train link, with an additional leg to San Diego, since voters approved the plan in 2008. Of the 422 miles that have obtained environmental clearance, 119 miles in California’s Central Valley is under construction on what will be a 171-mile leg connecting Merced and Bakersfield.

Amtrak service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas ended in 1997, and Las Vegas is the largest US city without any passenger rail service.

Signing the letter to Secretary Buttigieg with US Sen. Rosen was Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and all four of Nevada’s House members – Republican Mark Amodei (NV-02) and Democrats Dina Titus (NV-01), Susie Lee (NV-03), and Steven Horsford (NV-04).

Signing the letter from California were Democratic House members Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), and John Garamendi (CA-08), and Republican Jay Obernolte (CA-23).

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