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Clark County vows support of Virgin Trains’ planned bond request

Updated December 4, 2019 - 3:34 pm

Clark County officials vowed Tuesday to support the financing plan Virgin Trains is set to submit to the state for its high-speed rail project from Las Vegas to Southern California.

The County Commission unanimously voted to endorse Virgin’s plan to obtain industrial development bond financing from the state Department of Business and Industry for the $4.8 billion project.

Virgin is seeking $950 million in total private activity bonds in Nevada, including $200 million in bonds from the state’s debt limit allocation — which would allow Virgin to market $800 million in bonds — and $150 million through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s bond program.

California approved a $3.25 billion bond request last month to support the project.

Commissioner Michael Naft, who has been a vocal supporter of the project, highlighted the benefits the project would bring to the Las Vegas Valley.

“We’re talking about more than 1,000 (construction) jobs in Clark County,” Naft said. “Once the train station is open and operational, there will be a continuation of about 400 Clark County (resident) employees working on site.”

Naft also said there is talk of possibly bringing a Virgin Trains office to the valley.

Just 35 miles of the 170-mile rail project would run through Nevada — from the California state line near Primm to Las Vegas Boulevard between Blue Diamond and Warm Springs roads. The remaining 135 miles of track will run in California to the Victorville area, where the California station will be located. Long-term plans call for an extension into the Los Angeles area.

Virgin Trains must file an application with the county for approval of findings under the county’s private activity bond and volume cap policy and guidelines. The company must agree to pay all the county’s expenses in processing the application and conducting the investigation.

Virgin will have to deposit $50,000 with the county treasurer to be used as an advance on the amounts needed to pay expenses related to the approval of findings process. Any amount of that deposit not used will be returned to Virgin once the board makes a final determination regarding the findings.

“We appreciate the support of Clark County as we work to connect Las Vegas and Southern California by rail,” said Virgin spokesman Ben Porritt. “Our project is already making an investment in Clark County, building a Nevada-based team focused on delivering a mobility option that will take cars off the road (and) lead to the creation of thousands of jobs and significant environmental benefits for the state.”

The show of support highlights the county is not responsible for any financial support tied to the project and the proposed bonds.

The bonds were to be discussed at a Department of Business meeting last month, but Terry Reynolds, the department’s director, said that discussion was canceled because members could not attend.

Several smaller meetings have been set up with various state departments, the governor’s office and the county, Reynolds said, to ensure everything is in place for the bond request, which could be filed as early as next month’s state Board of Finance meeting.

“Our purview as the state is involved is really just with the actual mechanics of the bond,” Reynolds said.

If the bond requests are finalized early next year, Virgin plans to break ground on the project later that year. The project is expected to be completed in 2023.

“Everything is looking good so far,” Reynolds said.

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

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