Home>Articles>Inland Empire-To-Vegas High Speed Rail Line To Begin Construction Late 2023

High Speed Rail train, artists rendering. (Photo: CHSRA.ca.gov)

Inland Empire-To-Vegas High Speed Rail Line To Begin Construction Late 2023

Rail track would be placed in the median of I-15

By Evan Symon, March 5, 2023 2:25 am

Brightline West, a planned high-speed rail service from the Inland Empire to Las Vegas, announced on Friday that construction was to begin later this year after years of planning.

Since the late 2010’s, the Florida-based Brightline has been planning a Las Vegas to Southern California high-speed route, with many issues, such as where the California end terminus should go, managing to be resolved. However, final hurdles, such as financing issues and construction delays, plagued the company in the last few years. In 2020, the state of California approved $600 million worth of bond allocations, paving the way for Brightline West, then paired with Virgin Trains USA, to build soon. However, according to Brightline, “election uncertainty, the lack of approval of a Covid-19 vaccine, and lack of liquidity in the market did not allow [Brightline West] to price the bonds to provide long-term stability for the company.”

As a result, state treasurer Fiona Ma took back the allocation bonds in November 2020 and Virgin dropped out of the project, stopping the project indefinitely. However, the company bounced back the next year, even planning groundbreaking ceremonies and getting final okays from the Californian Government.

The final plan, of having stations in Rancho Cucamonga, Hesperia, Victor Valley, and Las Vegas and a track that would largely be placed in the median of I-15. Future stations would include a linkup with Los Angeles proper, as well as routes to  Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver.

Last Month, union agreements were finalized, inched towards a planned construction start date.

“The High-Speed Rail Labor Coalition is proud to be in partnership with Brightline West in this historic project,” Brightline West said in February. “Americans want high-speed rail, and Brightline West and the High-Speed Rail Labor Coalition will deliver. Brightline West will be the most elegant travel by rail experience you can have in America, and it will be the catalyst for America’s renaissance of travel by high-speed rail. The High-Speed Rail Labor Coalition is ready to bring this transformative transportation project to Americans. Let’s get to work. shared the High-Speed Rail Labor Coalition in a statement.”

“Brightline West is a 218-mile system connecting Las Vegas and Southern California within the Interstate 15 right-of-way with train capable of speeds of 200 miles per hour. The $10 billion investment has widespread economic benefits, including the creation of nearly 35,000 jobs during construction and more than $10 billion in economic impact. The fully electric, emission- free system will be one of the greenest forms of transportation in the U.S., removing 3 million cars and 400,000 tons of CO2 each year.”

Concerns over Brightline West in California, Nevada

This led to Friday’s announcement that construction will begin later this year.

“People who need to go back and forth from Las Vegas, there’s really no need to deal with a four-hour trip on the freeway anymore or even worrying about flying,” noted Rancho Cucamonga City Manager John Gillison. “You can literally come out, get on the rail line and two hours later be in Las Vegas, or vice versa if you’re going the other direction.”

However, the Brightline project has been heavily criticized and opposed by many in California and Nevada, especially in cities dependent on travelers who are being glossed over by the project, including those in Barstow, Baker, and Primm. Other criticisms, such as safety and it’s placement in the I-15 median, have also been seriously challenged.

“Brightline is going to be a stain on California,” noted German passenger railroad consultant Horst Bauer to the Globe on Friday. “Brightline’s $8-$10 billion cost is much less than the $113 billion California put towards their high-speed rail system which has not been progressing as they have hoped. I am always in favor of new high-speed rail systems, especially in areas such as the U.S. that have traditionally spurned them. It’s needed.”

“But Brightline has had a very bad reputation. Unlike Europe where they try to integrate cities with rail service to help businesses, they have not. In Florida, they have severely hurt local businesses and severely struggled financially for years. It is doing better now, but they also have the benefit of several nearby cities on the lines providing a better passenger stream, and like I said, severely hurts the ignored cities.”

“The Inland Empire-Las Vegas route has even more issues. First of all, they need to stop calling it the ‘LA to Las Vegas route’ because it doesn’t even come close to Los Angeles. Second, the rails placement in the middle of a major highway. That should not have happened. It makes sense for lower speed rail to do that. But one wrong jump from the track or derailment and you could see highways blocked. It’s not exactly the most likely scenario, but it’s not zero either. Third, this rail system is going to kill off a lot of town dependent on car traffic. If they had stops there, they would help, but they don’t, instead relying on speed. And that would make sense going between two larger cities, but remember, this train is not between two large cities, it’s the Inland Empire and a station in Las Vegas but away from everything major.”

“There’s a lot of doubts here, especially with ridership projections and local concerns going unanswered. It’s too early to know if it will be a failure like California High-Speed Rail has been, but it is concerning.”

Brightline West is expected to open up service in either 2026 or 2027.

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Evan Symon
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One thought on “Inland Empire-To-Vegas High Speed Rail Line To Begin Construction Late 2023

  1. Good news, bad news… Brightline West started in 2005 as DesertXpress, passed through several developers and investors, 2018 under Fortress Investment ($45 bil value) CEO Wes Edens (formerly Blackrock)…. Brightline has already invested $550 mil of it’s own funding to prepare the project, overhead wildlife crossings are planned. It’s an electrified train, if the power goes out, the train stops (probably should include a water car, provisions, and an emergency plan crossing the dessert!). Probably good construction isn’t slated til the end of 2023. Our ‘landscape’ (in every sense of the word) is about to change dramatically….. buckle up!

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