Updated August 14, 2023 - 3:24 pm
State transportation officials expect a decision to be made soon regarding a nearly $4 billion grant application to go toward funding the Las Vegas-to-Southern California high speed rail line.
Nevada Department of Transportation Director Tracy Larkin-Thomason said Monday that the awarding of a $3.75 billion Federal-State Partnership Program grant, applied for jointly with Brightline West, would likely come down next month.
Larkin-Thomason brought the $12 billion project up at the NDOT Board of Directors meeting Monday due to the final environmental studies being completed on the project last month after their last scheduled meeting July 10. In that environmental assessment, the Federal Railroad Administration found no significant environmental impacts for the planned 218-mile rail line.
“So all the environmental and regulatory hurdles have been passed,” Larkin-Thomason said.
With the approvals, the 218-mile Brightline West project would be the only interstate high-speed rail project in the U.S. ready to break ground.
If all of the $3.75 billion in funds are approved, Brightline plans to break ground by the end of the year. That would set the rail line up to be operational at the beginning of 2027, according to Brightline. The more than $8 billion in remaining costs for the project would be made up of private activity bonds in Nevada and California and private equity.
Various entities have tried to bring the long-planned, high-speed rail line to fruition since the early 2000s. If Brightline can get shovels in the ground, it will be a long time coming for Larkin-Thomason.
“We’ve been working with Brightline since 2019 on this project,” Larkin-Thomason said. “But of note, I can honestly say I was working on some form or fashion of this since 2004. … This is the best chance that we have ever seen of it moving forward.”
The rail line would feature a Southern Nevada passenger station at Las Vegas Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road. Stations would also be located in Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga in California. The Hesperia station will host the system’s maintenance facility.
Oak View Group is planning a $10 billion resort/NBA-ready arena project next to the planned Las Vegas Brightline station. The synergy the two projects could create makes it more likely that that both will come to fruition, according to Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft.
“I’ve asked all of the stakeholders in that area to work together to partner to make sure that the community gets something that really lifts up that area,” said Naft, whose district includes the area where the station and arena project would be built. “It’s not every day that you get to look at developing 300 acres of some of the most prestigious land in the state.”
Plans call for the track to mainly run in the center median of Interstate 15, with a portion on the Nevada side running on the east shoulder of the highway, starting near Sloan and into the Las Vegas station.
Passengers looking to travel to and from Las Vegas and Los Angeles will be able to do so by using the Metrolink at the Rancho Cucamonga station. The system offers multiple stops in different areas of Southern California, ending at the downtown L.A. station.
“I think that connection not only makes it that much more viable in terms of going out to the market for financing, successfully attracting grants, like the one I’m hopefully we’ll get, but it also makes it more viable in people’s minds,” Naft said. “It just makes sense that you’ll be able to get to L.A., but it also practically makes it more reasonable, because so many people would ask you the question, ‘Why do I need to take a train to Victorville then have to rent a car and find alternative transportation from there? This is just such an important element in the project.”