It appears as though the dream of a high-speed train from southern California to Las Vegas will finally become reality. On Tuesday, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the approval of $2.5 billion in private activity bonds authority.
The company behind the train service, Brightline West, says the train will reduce travel time from its southern California station to Las Vegas by 50%.
The approval comes less than two months after President Biden announced $8.2 billion for 10 passenger rail projects across the country. In December, Brightline’s partner Nevada’s DOT was awarded $3 billion for the project.
These larger awards for the Brightline project are on top of $25 million from the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority last year. Funding for the project started in 2020 when the DOT approved a private activity bond allocation of $1 billion for Brightline West in 2020.
Altogether, Brightline says the cost of the high-speed rail service will be around $12 billion. In turn, the company says there will be “widespread benefits including more than $10 billion in economic impact to Nevada and California.”
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a Brightline West press release:
“Today, the Biden-Harris administration takes the next step to fulfill the promise of high-speed rail in the American West, with $2.5 billion in private activity bond authority to lay tracks, create jobs, and connect American cities. President Biden’s historic infrastructure package gives us the opportunity to build safe, green, and accessible rail systems that will deliver benefits to the American people for generations to come.”
The high-speed train service will travel from Rancho Cucamonga to Las Vegas. The company already broke ground in Las Vegas and plans to begin construction this summer. Brightline expects service to begin in 2028.
Brightline West train service
The Brightline West train service will connect southern California to Las Vegas. The CA hub will be in Rancho Cucamonga. The small town is about an hour from Los Angeles and two hours from San Diego.
The Las Vegas station will be on Sunset Rd. and Las Vegas Blvd. This is a couple of miles from the main tourist corridor of the Vegas Strip. Similar to arriving at Harry Reid International Airport, passengers will need a ride to the Las Vegas casinos from the Brightline West station.
Brightline will run a high-speed train from CA to Las Vegas that tops off at around 186 MPH. The train will run on a 218-mile stretch of land mostly alongside the I-15 median.
This has the potential to be a turning point for transportation in the US. Brightline Founder and Chairman Wes Edens said:
“As the first true high-speed rail system in America, Brightline West will serve as the blueprint for connecting cities with fast, eco-friendly passenger rail throughout the country.”
This will cut travel time from southern California to Las Vegas in half. In addition to saving transportation time, the high-speed train should be good for the environment. The trains will be fully electric and have zero emissions. According to a DOT news post, this rail line will be “one of the greenest forms of transportation in the US.”
High-speed rail could transport many visitors
Through Nov. 2023, visitation to Las Vegas was ahead of the previous year by more than 5%, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). The 37.4 million visitors through Nov. put Las Vegas on track to see the most visitors since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another study from the LVCVA shows that 26% of those visiting Las Vegas in 2022 came from Southern California. Through the third quarter of 2023, more than half the visitors to Las Vegas arrived by car or other ground transportation.
When completed, the new train could save millions of visitors time traveling to Las Vegas.
Expansion south of the Vegas Strip
Even though there are still empty plots of land ready for new casinos on the north end of the Vegas Strip, the future could look south. The Brightline West station could be one of many venues that could be opening south of Mandalay Bay.
Two years ago, Oak View Group (OVG) announced its intention to build an entertainment district near the land where the high-speed train station will be. Last year, OVG reaffirmed those plans pending the approval of a Las Vegas NBA team.
In 2022 Station Casinos purchased 126 acres of land on Las Vegas Blvd. south of Mandalay Bay. The company intends to build a full-service casino hotel in the future.
In late 2023, Penn Entertainment broke ground on a new hotel tower for M Resort. This property is a little further south of the other possible venues planned south of the Vegas Strip.
The Brightline service and station are still years away but it’s fun to speculate what could happen to the area south of Mandalay Bay.