Brightline striving to be on track for ’28 L.A. Olympic Games
Brightline West’s CEO says it is prepared to break ground this year on its long-planned high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California.
Updated May 22, 2023 - 8:08 pm
Brightline West envisions opening its decade-plus-in-the-making high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California by the time the 2028 Olympics Games in Los Angeles begin.
Brightline CEO Mike Reininger noted the company is prepared to break ground on the $12 billion project at the end of the year, pending regulatory approval and the securing of a federal grant Brightline applied for last month. That would lead to the system being ready to handle potential Olympic game attendees staying in Las Vegas and taking the two-hour-and-50-minute train ride to L.A.
That’s the dream kickoff scenario for Brightline West.
“Think about the idea of the Los Angeles Olympics having venues shared and hotel rooms shared between the Los Angeles metropolitan area and the Las Vegas metropolitan area,” Reininger said during the U.S. High-Speed Rail Conference held last week in Washington D.C. “Imagine watching a game at Allegiant Stadium and getting on a train and going and watching another event in Southern California, in the same day. It will be a remarkable showcase.”
Work on the 218-mile rail route between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga, California, could begin as early as the end of the year. From there riders could continue into downtown Los Angeles via the Metrolink rail system in Southern California.
Some 18 months of preparation work will be needed to be done along the system’s footprint before crews would begin laying tracks.
Plans call for laying a mile of track per day for 270 days in order to meet the Olympic deadline. The total track set to be laid is 270 miles, due to some double track needed for the system, according to Keith Tarkalson, mountain states area manager with Stacy and Witbeck Inc., civil construction firm.
“When I initially heard the schedule of a four-year construction project going 220 route miles I went, ‘whoa,” Tarkalson said. “When you boil it all down … It basically allots us one year to construct the track.”
The operation zone as the project progresses will span up to 15 miles in length as sections of the track are laid. In all, there will be 70,000 tons of rail, 2.4 million tons of ballast track and 750,000 railroad ties used in the construction of the track.
Brightline and the Nevada Department of Transportation applied for $3.75 billion in federal funding that would be used toward the $12 billion construction cost of the rail system.
“That represents 30 percent of the $12 billion project,” Reininger said. “The other 70 percent of the project is going to be private investment by our company. … It is the only fully shovel-ready project that can be delivered in short order in the United States.”
The grant request was 4,500 pages long, going into detail on all aspects of the project, including potential issues and solutions to those, according to Reininger. All the work that would be involved with the project led to the $3.75 billion price tag, with the hope of landing the full request.
“If you want all the ornaments on the Christmas tree, then you have to be prepared to fund the totality of the operation,” Reininger said.
The rest of the cost for building the system would be paid for by a combination of private activity bonds in Nevada and California and private equity.
The planned Brightline West portion will be a three-station system, with Las Vegas, Victorville and Rancho Cucamonga having passenger stations.
“We have acquired land at all of the stations for all of the facilities necessary to put our system into program,” Reininger said. “The infrastructure itself is virtually built inside of the median of the I-15 corridor.”
A portion of the track in Las Vegas will run just next to the far right shoulder of the I-15 northbound lanes to the Southern Nevada station.
The Las Vegas station will be built on a portion of 110 acres of land on Las Vegas Boulevard and Warm Springs Road.
“Literally, you’ll be able to get out of a train, out onto a public plaza and on to all the virtues the metroplex of Las Vegas has to offer,” Reininger said.
Riders will be able to link farther into California from Rancho Cucamonga via Metrolink in about 50 minutes. From the Rancho Cucamonga station there are eight stops along the way to downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station.
Brightline is working with Metrolink to coordinate schedules to ensure riders can seamlessly travel between the two rail providers.
That’s so the arrival times of trains into Rancho Cucamonga will match departure times of trains “so that there can be a quick connection,” Reininger said. “We’re likely to take space in Union Station for a passenger-service operation. … probably take bags from people at Union Station and pick them back up in Las Vegas and vice-versa.”
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