$3 billion federal grant OK’d for Las Vegas-to-California high-speed rail

The federal government is backing a high-speed rail system connecting Southern California to Las Vegas with a $3 billion investment, officials announced Tuesday, Dec. 5.

The announcement comes after Nevada Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto led a bipartisan group that included four House members from California that urged President Joe Biden in April to commit up to $3.75 billion in federal infrastructure funds toward what they call a public-private partnership with Brightline West.

The fully electric high-speed rail system is planned to stretch 218 miles along the 15 Freeway between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga. The $12 billion project is expected to take 3 million cars off the freeway and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 tons annually, developers say. Rancho Cucamonga expects to see more than 11 million passengers come through its Cucamonga Station each year.

“We are thrilled to witness the realization of this transformative project that connects our dynamic regions,” Rancho Cucamonga Mayor L. Dennis Michael said in a statement Tuesday. “This strategic investment in cutting-edge infrastructure not only opens doors to jobs, economic growth, tourism, and commercial ventures but also enhances Southern California’s global connectivity.”

According to Rancho Cucamonga officials, construction of the project would support more than 11,000 jobs each year and bring $5 billion in spending to San Bernardino County, $300 million of it to the city.

Rancho Cucamonga City Manager John Gillison credited the city’s partners — Brightline West, San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, Omnitrans, Ontario International Airport, San Bernardino County, Greater Ontario California and Metrolink — for its efforts supporting the development of Cucamonga Station and the HART District.

The projects are “poised to ignite an economic renaissance across the region, amplifying opportunities for commuters, entertainment seekers, businesses, and tourism enthusiasts,” Gillison said. “This dynamic initiative signals a new era in regional growth and prosperity.”

In July, the Federal Rail Administration approved the environmental review and permits for the project, which includes a 49-mile stretch of rail between Rancho Cucamonga and the High Desert.

The Brightline West project has been talked about for decades, and Rosen told reporters that it now has all required right-of-way and environmental approvals, along with labor agreements, for work to start.

No date was announced for work to start, but officials have said the line is expected to be in operation by 2027 in time for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

“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.

Planners say trains carrying passengers at nearly 200 mph could cut in half a four-hour freeway trip from a station in Las Vegas through Victorville to Rancho Cucamonga.

They say the service could help alleviate weekend or end-of-holiday travel traffic jams that often stretch for 15 miles on the 15 Freeway near the Nevada-California line.

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 Las Vegas-to-Rancho Cucamonga 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.

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