Las Vegas to SoCal High-Speed Train Details Released, Project Targeting 2024 Completion

Posted on: October 26, 2020, 10:57h. 

Last updated on: October 26, 2020, 12:28h.

Brightline West has released details on the scope of the multibillion-dollar undertaking. The high-speed train infrastructure project is planned for Las Vegas to Southern California.

Las Vegas high-speed train Brightline West
Instead of sitting in traffic on I-15, Brightline West would move rail passengers between Las Vegas and California at speeds up to 200 mph. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Last month, Brightline announced it would raise $3.2 billion in capital through the issuance of bonds backed by California and Nevada. The 260-mile rail system is designed to take cars off the road and offer eco-friendly travel between the country’s gaming capital and Los Angeles. The project is expected to cost $8 billion.

Brightline says it hopes to break ground on the railway’s first segment before the end of the year. The company plans to commence operations in the first half of 2024. The first segment will run from Victorville, Calif., to Las Vegas.

Additional expansion segments include Victorville to Rancho Cucamonga in San Bernardino County, and from there to Los Angeles Union Station.

Those who are in support of the massive build shouldn’t get their hopes up too high. The high-speed train was first conceptualized back in 2005 and has remained in flux ever since.

Advocates say the train will bring more visitors to Las Vegas from Southern California, the casino hub’s primary drawing market. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) says 18 percent of all Sin City visitors in 2019 arrived from Southern California. People visiting from SoCal gamble more than other feeder markets, and also spend at higher rates.

Funding Needed for Project First

Brightline is a privately held company that currently operates inner-city rail routes in Miami and West Palm Beach, Fla.

Brightline was previously partnered with billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and was to call the Las Vegas to SoCal line Virgin Trains USA. That arrangement was derailed in August, Brightline saying it had terminated the Virgin licensing agreement. Branson’s empire has been hit hard by COVID-19. His Virgin Atlantic airlines filed for bankruptcy in August.

Brightline is receiving $2.4 billion in private-bond allocations from California and $800 million from Nevada. If the bonds are not sold by December 1, the project will again be put on hold. Brightline is the only private passenger rail service in the US.

Billionaire Wes Edens, whose Fortress Investment Group owns Brightline, says Brightline West would be an economic catalyst for Southern Nevada and California.

“It’s 30,000-plus construction jobs, $6 billion in economic impact, and over $800 million in federal state and local tax revenues,” Edens told Forbes. “Those are gigantic numbers, and at the end you end up with this generational asset, just like the Hoover Dam, that is going to serve this part of the world for many generations to come.”

Transportation Overhaul

The future of travel to and in Las Vegas is changing. Along with the potential of arriving in Sin City via the high-speed trail in the coming years, moving about the city is being modernized.

The LVCVA is in the process of acquiring the bankrupt Las Vegas Monorail for $24 million. If the deal is completed, the LVCVA would be able to remove a noncompete clause the Las Vegas Monorail Company holds on transportation systems on the east side of the Strip.

The LVCVA is investing heavily in underground tunnels. Billionaire Elon Musk’s Boring Company is the developer behind the below-ground infrastructure. The tourism board wants the Boring network to link McCarran International to the Strip and north to downtown Las Vegas.