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Biden touts LV to SoCal rail benefits: ‘Breakfast here in Las Vegas and lunch in L.A.’

Updated December 9, 2023 - 10:40 am

President Joe Biden on Friday hailed the promise of a long-awaited high-speed rail system between Las Vegas and Los Angeles and said $3 billion in federal funds awarded this week will ensure it gets built.

“At long last we’re building the first high-speed rail project in our nation’s history and it’s starting here,” Biden said. “Together we’re finally going to make high-speed rail happen between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Folks, we’ve been talking about this project for decades, now, we’re really getting it done.”

Biden and Air Force One touched down in Las Vegas at about 1 p.m. Friday along with Sen. Jacky Rosen and Rep. Dina Titus and headed to the Carpenters International International Training Center to announce the federal grant award for Brightline West’s $12 billion high-speed rail system. The training center is just miles away from Brightline’s planned Las Vegas station, scheduled to be constructed on Las Vegas Boulevard, between Warm Springs and Blue Diamond roads.

The $3 billion award is from the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program and will be put toward the construction of the planned 218-mile rail system. Those grant funds are part of $8.2 billion in new federal funding for 10 major passenger rail projects across the country.

“This is a huge step forward, we could get to work on Monday,” Wes Edens, co-founder of Fortress Investment Group, Brightline’s parent company, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We feel so grateful to have the opportunity to do this, after all the hard work we put in. The support of the government has been phenomenal, the support of the people here in Las Vegas has been tremendous and we’re really excited now to get started.”

The Nevada Department of Transportation served as the grant administrator in the filing, with the $3 billion secured amounting to the largest grant award in NDOT history.

“Three-billion to make Brightline a bright new reality for our tourist corridor,” Rosen said.

The project’s remaining cost will be paid by tax-exempt private activity bonds from Nevada and California, plus private capital.

Outside of Las Vegas, plans call for Brightline stations to be built in Hesperia, Apple Valley and Rancho Cucamonga, California. Travelers will be able to travel to-and-from downtown Los Angeles from the Rancho Cucamonga station via the Metrolink.

A trip between Las Vegas and L.A., including the Metrolink transfer, is expected to take 2 hours and 40 minutes.

“If the casino worker wants to take their kid to California for the weekend, they could have breakfast here in Las Vegas and lunch in L.A.,” Biden said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2024 with the goal of having train service operating before the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Edens said.

“We think sometime in the first part of next year there will be an actual physical groundbreaking,” Edens said. “There’s been a tremendous amount of work to get to this point, but now it really starts in earnest Monday and I think it will go really rapidly thereafter.”

Considering the number of national and international visitors that the Olympics draw, Biden envisions some of the attendees in Southern California making their way to Southern Nevada via Brightline.

“Guess where they’re going to come and visit?” Biden said. “With high-speed rail, Las Vegas can host some of the hundreds of thousands of visitors and athletes who are expected from around the world.”

Another electric rail line getting federal funds has been billed as the nation’s first high-speed route and is eventually planned to traverse California’s Central Valley and extend to San Francisco and on to Los Angeles, with trains reaching up to 220 mph.

Other train projects getting funding include upgrades to heavily traveled corridors in Virginia and North Carolina, with the eventual goal of linking Richmond and Raleigh by rail. Funding will also go to improvements to a rail bridge over the Potomac River to bolster passenger service in Washington and will cover train corridor upgrades in western Pennsylvania and Maine, while expanding capacity at Chicago’s Union Station, one of the nation’s busiest rail hubs.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on X. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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