Earlier this year, the Nevada Department of Transportation in coordination with Brightline West applied for a $3.75 billion Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant from the FRA to help fund construction of the project, which is estimated to cost $12 billion. Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto—Nevada Democrats who co-led a bipartisan group of colleagues in a letter to the USDOT in support of the grant application—announced Dec. 5 that the award would be for $3 billion. President Joe Biden on Dec. 8 joined elected officials from Nevada and California to formally announce the award in Las Vegas.
“This historic high-speed rail project will be a game changer for Nevada’s tourism economy and transportation,” Sen. Rosen said in her grant award press release.
“Connecting Las Vegas and Southern California by high-speed rail will create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs, boost our Southern Nevada tourism economy, and finally help us cut down on I-15 traffic,” Sen. Cortez Masto said in a separate release.
U.S. Reps. Steven Horsford and Dina Titus—both Nevada Democrats—also signed the letter to the USDOT and issued grant award announcements on Dec. 5.
“I have been engaged in conversations with Secretary (Pete) Buttigieg, Brightline, and our labor leaders to ensure that local workers and our Nevada small businesses will be the ones to benefit from this historic and monumental investment,” Rep. Horsford said.
“As far back as 2001, I’ve been advocating to bring a true high-speed rail system to Southern Nevada, and I am thrilled that this funding will allow Brightline West and the Nevada Department of Transportation to do just that,” said Rep. Titus. “This project will help bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and create thousands of good-paying, union jobs. We’ll be creating jobs, reducing emissions, alleviating traffic, and setting an unprecedented example for the possibilities of high-speed rail in our country.”
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, “Congress is required to be notified 72 hours ahead of an official grant announcement.”
The proposed Las Vegas-to-Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., HSR system is expected to take about four years to build. It would primarily operate within the median of the I-15 right-of-way and include stations in Apple Valley and Hesperia (see map above). The Rancho Cucamonga station would be located next to the existing Metrolink station, allowing for a link to commuter rail service, including to downtown Los Angeles. Additionally, Brightline West has reported working with the California High Speed Rail Authority on future connectivity in Palmdale.
“We’re putting high-speed rail on the fast track,” President Biden said during the official grant award announcement on Dec. 8. “Together, we’re finally going to make high-speed rail happen between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Folks, we’ve been talking about this project for decades. Now we’re really getting it done. And I want to thank the members of Nevada’s congressional delegation for all they’ve done to make it possible. And here’s why it matters. Some of you know what it’s like to sit in traffic on interstates—not the one between here and L.A., which is real, but all interstates—and guess what? Trying to make that drive from L.A. to Las Vegas or Las Vegas to L.A. or anywhere in between is a pain in the neck. It can take up to seven hours. But soon, it’s not going to be anymore.
“We’re investing $3 billion on this rail line so folks can make that trip in over—just over two hours … And it won’t just get there faster; the rail project reduces carbon emissions … it’s the same as taking 3 million vehicles off the highway—3 million. And all the studies show, by the way, if people can get from point A to point B faster on a train than their car, they take the train—they take the train. Think of what that’s going to mean to the environment. Think of what it’ll mean for the local economy.
“[The [n]ew rail line will transport 11 million passengers a year. That means more visitors, more business, more Las Vegas, more money. And if a casino worker wants to take their kid to California for the weekend, they can have breakfast here in Las Vegas and lunch in L.A.
“Look, folks, what it really means, it means growth. It means opportunity for towns and communities between here and the California coast. It’s on track to be completed by the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Guess where they’re going to come and visit, huh? It means, with high-speed rail, Las Vegas can host … some of the hundreds of thousands of visitors and athletes that we’re expecting from around the world. And here’s the best part: It means jobs—union jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs … Thirty-five thousand jobs during the construction phase; ten thousand union jobs in the building trades—carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, laborers, and more. Jobs, and jobs beyond. In fact, once we complete this train line, it’s going to be operated by union workers. That means a thousand new jobs for track and signal workers, on-board workers, shop craft workers, everyone.”
Brightline Founder and Chairman Wes Edens said during the announcement: “We’re honored and humbled in the confidence President Biden, Secretary (Pete) Buttigieg, Senator Rosen and so many others have placed in Brightline’s vision to bring true high-speed rail to America. This is a historic moment that will serve as a foundation for a new industry, and a remarkable project that will serve as the blueprint for how we can repeat this model throughout the country. We’re ready to get to work to bring our vision of American made, American built, world class, state-of-the-art high speed train travel to America.”
“The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California has worked for years to bring this project forward and are very proud of Brightline West and the Biden-Harris Administration for bringing it together,” commented Chris Hannan, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, which in March signed a memorandum of understanding with Brightline West and the Southern Nevada Building Trades Union to ensure the system would be built with unionized labor. “Funding for this project from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will make the lives for people in California and Nevada better, from the millions of people who will move about safely and efficiently resulting in tremendous relief on Interstate 15 and local communities to the thousands of members represented and trained by Building Trades Unions who will construct this monumental project. Union members both journey-level and apprentices alike will work hard building this country and their economic future because of this bold leadership and action.”
In related developments, the Surface Transportation Board in November authorized the construction and operation of a modified alignment of Brightline West’s planned high-speed line, subject to environmental mitigation measures; and San Bernardino County Transportation Authority in June was awarded a $25 million RAISE program grant from the USDOT to fund the final design and construction of two Brightline West stations and associated facilities in Hesperia and in the Victor Valley of San Bernardino County.