High-speed train project at least months away from start

At best, it could be another 18 months before any ground is broken on the XpressWest project - the same time frame backers gave the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2009.

The reality of a high-speed train shuttling travelers between Victorville, Calif., and Las Vegas hinges on funding of $5.5 billion from the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing, which is administered by the Federal Railroad Administration. XpressWest's first loan application was submitted in December 2010 and is still under review.

The nearly $7 billion project will largely be financed from this loan, if approved, and the rest in private equity investment.

At Tuesday's meeting of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors, XpressWest Chief Operating Officer Andrew Mack, said it could be six months before a decision is made on the application. If approved, it would be still another year before ground is broken.

"It's really dependent on the RRIF pay," Mack said. "That's really driving the schedule."

The train would be built adjacent to Interstate 15 with service every 20 minutes and one-ways taking about 80 minutes. The average fare is less than $100, Mack said. Each train would seat between 500 and 600 passengers.

If construction eventually starts, XpressWest estimates that 80,000 direct and indirect construction jobs will be created, with a third of those going to Southern Nevadans. The estimated economic output of the rail line during its lifetime is $7.8 billion.

In Las Vegas, two potential sites have been chosen for train stations: one across from the Rio and the other across from Mandalay Bay.