Vegas to LA high-speed rail project gets $2.5B in federal funds – NewsNation Now

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(NewsNation) — A high-speed rail project that will link Los Angeles and Las Vegas has received another federal boost.

Brightline West received the approval of $2.5 billion in private activity bonds authority, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Jan. 23. The 218-mile high-speed line will run along the Interstate 15 median, with trains reaching up to 186 mph.

“Building a high speed rail corridor from Las Vegas to Southern California will drive economic investment and opportunity across the region,” U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg said in a news release. “Residents and visitors alike will benefit from access to a fast and sustainable travel option that better connects key cities.”

Private activity bonds are debt instruments authorized by the Transportation Department to be used for highway and freight projects that allow a private company to benefit from tax exempt municipal bonds.

The Transportation Department previously approved a $1 million bond allocation for the project in 2020, bringing the total to $3.5 million. Brightline West was also the recent recipient of a $3 billion federal grant for right-of-way acquisition, final design and construction activities.

Once completed, the privately owned rail line is expected to run electric trains from Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga, just east of Los Angeles. The trip time is an estimated two hours, twice as fast as the drive time.

Field work has begun in preparation for a groundbreaking expected later this year. The company has a goal of opening the line in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Brightline also operates a line in Florida between Orlando and Miami, taking travelers between the two cities in about 3 1/2 hours.

In California and Nevada, the company has begun meeting with trade unions to discuss possibly hiring 11,000 workers for construction, NewsNation affiliate KTLA reported.

Workers in California will begin construction at multiple sites, while workers in Nevada will begin construction at the rail service’s stop in Vegas and continue their work toward the state line.

Once completed, Brightline could be one one of two high-speed rail systems operating in California.

The state is also making progress on a publicly funded and operated line in the Central Valley between Modesto and Bakersfield, with plans to later expand it to San Francisco and Los Angeles. That project was approved in 2008 but has faced several delays. The state hopes to have it operational by 2030.

The chief executive of the agency handling the bullet-train line recently stepped down as it shifts from policy to operations. Brian Kelly, who has served as CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority since 2018, submitted a formal letter of resignation earlier this month.

NewsNation affiliate KTLA contributed to this report.

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