Las Vegas-SoCal Express Train Work Expected, As Biden Warns China Could ‘Eat Our Lunch’

Posted on: February 12, 2021, 03:07h. 

Last updated on: February 12, 2021, 03:38h.

President Joe Biden this week cautioned that China is “going to eat our lunch” on major projects like high-speed rail if the US doesn’t “get moving.” This comes as construction could begin soon on a high-speed train line between Southern California and Las Vegas.

Brightline West
A high-speed train zips through the desert in this artist’s depiction. Construction could start soon on a rail line from the Victorville area to Las Vegas. (Image: Pain in the Pass)

In an Oval Office meeting Thursday with senators from both parties, Biden said China is investing billions on transportation and other infrastructure, according to CNBC. A day earlier, Biden spoke for two hours with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“They have a major, major new initiative on rail, and they already have rail that goes 225 miles an hour with ease,” Biden said. “They’re going to, you know, if we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch.”

Sarah Watterson, president of Brightline West, said construction could begin this spring on the company’s high-speed train connecting Las Vegas to Southern California. In a Jan. 4 status update to the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority, Watterson said the company is “on target” to begin construction in the second quarter of this year.

The all-electric train would run along the 1-15 corridor from Victorville, Calif., to Las Vegas. The train is expected to reach speeds of 200 mph.

Victorville is about 85 miles east of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County.  The company is in discussions to provide links in Southern California to Rancho Cucamonga and Palmdale, according to the Engineering News-Record. From these areas, riders could connect to downtown Los Angeles on the Metrolink railway.

Tourism Slowdown

Because of its remote desert location, tourism-dependent Las Vegas relies upon mass transportation systems such as airlines in getting large numbers of visitors to the city. 

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic severely hampered airline travel in and out of McCarran International Airport. Airline travel at the airport was down by 29 million passengers last year. The airport is near the Strip at the southeastern end of the resort corridor.

This steep decline in air travel is evident in the low hotel occupancy rates in the region. In December, the weekday occupancy rate was only about 25 percent. In response, some hotel-casinos have closed all or part of their operations during the slow middle of the week.

‘Stop the Talk’

For decades, plans to build a high-speed train from Southern California to Las Vegas have been proposed but abandoned.

Last month, a reader posted a comment on a story, reflecting the skepticism some feel when high-speed train ideas are floated.

This has been talked about so long I could (have) walked to Vegas from the Inland Empire and back five times in that span,” said a reader identified as CJ. “Stop the talk and get it together.”

The Inland Empire region of Southern California is about 225 miles from Las Vegas, according to Google Maps.

In a recent “Video Vault” broadcast on KSNV-TV in Las Vegas, veteran reporter Tom Hawley said high-speed rail plans are “not exactly new here.”

“We’ve been hearing variations going back three-and-a-half decades,” Hawley said. 

He said the current proposal would not be ready until 2029 “under the most optimistic scenario.”