Vegas-to-SoCal high-speed train project gets $3 billion from Biden administration 

West Palm Beach, FL Brightline passenger train. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

By Keya Vakil

December 6, 2023

A planned high-speed rail system to connect Las Vegas and Southern California got a huge boost on Tuesday, when the Biden administration approved $3 billion in federal funding for the Brightline West high-speed rail system.

The news was first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and confirmed by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) in a press release. President Joe Biden is expected to officially announce the grant award during a Friday visit to Las Vegas. 

The funding comes from Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and will allow Brightline to complete the $12 billion project. Brightline sought $3.75 billion in public funds, with the rest of the project being privately financed.

The company estimates the line will have $10 billion in economic impact, generate $1 billion in tax revenues, and create 35,000-plus construction jobs, including at least 10,000 union jobs. The project is also expected to create 1,000 or more permanent jobs. 

The environmental impact is also expected to be substantial, as the fully-electric, emission-free line is estimated to lead to 700 million fewer vehicle miles traveled per year and the reduction of 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Rosen, who voted for the infrastructure law, has spent months advocating for the US Department of Transportation to approve Brightline’s funding request. On Tuesday, she celebrated the funding announcement. 

“This historic high-speed rail project will be a game changer for Nevada’s tourism economy and transportation,” Rosen said in a statement. “It’ll bring more visitors to our state, reduce traffic on the I-15, create thousands of good paying jobs, and decrease carbon emissions, all while relying on local union labor.”

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a fellow Democrat, also praised the Biden administration’s announcement. 

“Bringing high-speed rail to Southern Nevada just makes sense, given the tens of millions of visitors we have each year,” she said in a statement.

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The Brightline West project is planned to run from a proposed station near the Strip, located on Las Vegas Boulevard between Warm Springs and Blue Diamond Roads, to Rancho Cucamonga, California, where it will link with Los Angeles’ existing regional rail system, including Downtown Los Angeles. 

The trip from Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga would take about 2 hours and 10 minutes, with another 30 minute journey to reach Downtown LA. The company’s plans also call for stations in Hesperia and Apple Valley, California, and 96% of the planned route aligns with the median of I-15.

Brightline estimates that about 50 million trips occur each year between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, with more than 85% of them by car. The company expects to serve more than 11 million one-way passengers annually, once the route is completed.

The project is expected to break ground in early 2024 with the aim of finishing it before the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. 

The project is supported by a host of labor unions, whom Brightline has agreed to work with to ensure the system is built and operated via union labor. 

“This is a momentous day for the workers of Southern Nevada, specifically members of the Southern Nevada Building Trades Union, as we announce our partnership with Brightline West and the California Building Trades to create our country’s first true high-speed rail system,” said Vince Saavedra, executive secretary-treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building Trades Union. 

“Our thousands of high-skilled members of our allied unions are standing at the ready to build this rail system,” Saavedra continued. “Nevada was built on the backs of our labor union members, and this historic rail project will continue that legacy. This project will create thousands of jobs and bring millions of dollars into our economy, and I am proud of the role our unions will play in it.”

Other labor unions supporting the project include the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, Brotherhood of Maintenance Way Employees, Brotherhood Of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood-Railroad Signalmen, Southwest Mountain States Regional Council of Carpenters, and LiUNA! Local 300.

The Clark County Commission, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Nevada Resort Association, Vegas, Henderson, and Latin Chambers of Commerce, and Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance also support the project.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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