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High-speed rail receives key approval for link into LA

Updated July 14, 2023 - 12:57 pm

A key approval officially opening up the possibility of a Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas high-speed rail connection occurred this week.

The environmental review and permitting process for the stretch of Brightline West’s planned Victor Valley-to-Rancho Cucamonga, California high-speed rail line was finished Wednesday.

In that, the Federal Railroad Administration found no significant environmental impacts for the planned 49-mile line that would be part of the Las Vegas-to-Southern California high-speed rail project. The track would run within the right of way of Interstate 15.

“The FRA’s Finding of No Significant Impact confirms the environmental benefits of the project extending into Greater Los Angeles at Rancho Cucamonga,” Sarah Watterson, president of Brightline West, said in a statement. “Having permits and right of way are typically the highest barriers to success for large scale infrastructure developments, and Brightline West’s tremendous progress here signifies why we are moving towards a ground-break later this year.”

Two stations would be part of this stretch of Brightline’s system, one in Hesperia and one in Rancho Cucamonga. The Hesperia station previously received environmental approval and will feature the system’s maintenance facility.

The full Las Vegas-to-Rancho Cucamonga rail line is projected to cost $12 billion and will span 218 miles, featuring a Southern Nevada passenger station at Las Vegas Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road. The environmental assessment for the Las Vegas-to-Apple Valley portion was approved in 2011 and reviewed in 2020.

The rail line will be powered via overhead electric catenary with a power substation set to be built near Hesperia. Last month Brightline was awarded $25 million in grant funding to go toward building passenger rail stations in Southern California.

Trains are planned to run on daily one-hour headways, with a trip between Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga expected to take 35 minutes. Brightline’s service will be timed with Metrolink in Rancho Cucamonga to allow riders to link into the Los Angeles area.

With the environmental approval in place, Brightline is still on track to break ground on the long-talked-about project at the end of the year, with the goal of operations beginning in 2027.

Brightline also is awaiting word on what amount, if any, it will receive from a $3.75 billion grant the company and the Nevada Department of Transportation applied for earlier this year from the Federal-State Partnership Program.

Whatever money is awarded would go toward the construction of the rail line, with the remainder of the costs to be paid for via tax-exempt private activity bond allocation from both Nevada and California and private capital.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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