|Service type||Inter-city high-speed rail|
|Status||Planned (Construction to break ground in 2021)|
|First service||2024 (anticipated)|
|Start||Victor Valley, California|
|Distance travelled||170 mi (270 km)|
|Average journey time||85 minutes|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||200 mph (320 km/h) (top)|
120 mph (190 km/h) (average)
|Track owner(s)||Fortress Investment Group|
Brightline West, formerly known as XpressWest, is a proposed privately run high-speed rail route between Las Vegas Valley and Victor Valley, in the high desert area of Southern California. The project is intended to provide an alternative to air and automobile travel between Southern California and Las Vegas, a popular vacation spot for many living in the region. Construction on the route is expected to begin in spring 2021 and enter service in 2024.
The line was developed starting in 2005 as DesertXpress and has passed through several developers and investors. In September 2018, the project rights were acquired by Fortress Investment Group, which owns Brightline in Florida, the only privately run inter-city rail route in the United States.
Las Vegas is a gambling and tourist destination for the Greater Los Angeles area with Interstate 15 being a direct route between the two regions. Travel by automobile takes around four hours while Greyhound buses cover the route in between five and seven hours. The highway carries heavy traffic on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday which causes significant delays and bumper to bumper traffic jams. Motorists heading back to Los Angeles on Sunday can create a 17-mile (27 km) backup. Airlines have direct flights but traffic and security at the airport add time to the short flight. Las Vegas lost its last passenger train service in 1997 when Amtrak cancelled the Desert Wind.
The original plan under the name DesertXpress was to provide an alternative to automobile travel and airline travel between the Los Angeles area and the Las Vegas area along Interstate 15. The city of Victorville was selected as the location for the westernmost terminal as extending the train line farther into the Los Angeles basin through the Cajon Pass was considered to be prohibitively expensive. The station would include free parking and through-checking of baggage straight to the Las Vegas Strip resorts. A future extension would have included a new link to the California High-Speed Rail station in Palmdale.
DesertXpress Enterprises, LLC was founded in 2005 to develop, construct, own and operate the high-speed rail project. 70% of the company were held by Anthony A. Marnell II of Marnell Corrao Associates through his DX, LLC company whereas Gary Tharaldson and François Badeau held 20 and 10%, respectively. The preparation of a first Federal Railroad Administration-Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was started in 2006.
The total cost of the link between Apple Valley and Las Vegas was expected to be around US$5 billion. In March 2010, project planners said they could obtain the full funding amount through exclusively private investors, but had also applied for a $4.9 billion loan through the federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program. As of October 2011, the start of the project was contingent on receiving a $6 billion loan from the federal government, the approval or denial of which was expected in mid-2012.
A preferred design was identified with the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement on April 1, 2011, which began a public comment period that ended on May 2, 2011. The federal government approved the design on July 8, 2011, and the planned route was approved by the Surface Transportation Board on October 26, 2011. The trains were to be self-propelled, all electric multiple unit (EMU) trains with maximum speed of 150 mph (240 km/h).
The train would travel at speeds of up to 150 mph (240 km/h) averaging 130 mph (210 km/h) and making the 186 mi (299 km) trip from Victorville to Las Vegas in about 1 hour 24 minutes. In March 2010, executives with the project said they expected construction to begin in 2010. In October 2011, construction was planned to begin in the last quarter of 2012, with completion in the last quarter of 2016, subject to funding.
Transformation to XpressWest
In June 2012, the developer announced the new plan to build a network of high-speed rail for the region by expanding to Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The initial phase was to include high-speed tracks, Las Vegas to Apple Valley and Apple Valley to Palmdale.
The 185-mile (298 km) link between Las Vegas and Victorville was designed to be double-tracked which is dedicated for the high-speed trains. The costs of this section was estimated at $6.9 billion. The developer would put up $1.4 billion in private investment and the rest of funding would borrowed under the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program provided by the Federal Railroad Administration.
Future plans include a link between Las Vegas and Phoenix, Arizona, and another from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado. The project was subsequently rebranded to XpressWest to reflect the expanded mission.
The developer signed a document with Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials in June 2012 to explore the plan to build a 50-mile (80 km) high-speed rail link between Victorville and Palmdale. The link would initially connect to the Metrolink system in Palmdale. This would allow passengers to complete a train ride between Los Angeles and Las Vegas with one transfer by using Metrolink in the Los Angeles area and a transfer to the high-speed train at Palmdale station. The station would eventually connect with California High-Speed Rail, and is designed to have the same specifications and technology, allowing it to continue on California High-Speed Rail further into Burbank and Los Angeles. The early estimate of the costs for this link was $1.5 billion and the earliest environmental work was to be completed by the end of 2013. The date of the service for this link has not been determined.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chairman of the House Budget Committee and senator Jeff Sessions(R-AL), the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on the Budget were the main opponents to the federal loan application of XpressWest. They argued that the project represented high risk to the taxpayer. They wrote to then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in March 2013 and recommended the administration to reject the loan application. The letter indicated that the total cost was estimated to be $6.9 billion. The $1.4 billion would come from the private sources and the remaining $5.5 billion would come from the federal loan. The letter cited a taxpayer risk analysis report as a basis of their recommendation.
In July 2013, there were reports that loan was indefinitely suspended, which were later confirmed by the federal government, which said that it had been suspended in part due to the failure of the application in regard to the "Buy America" policy which required applicants to use American-made products. Despite the indefinite suspension of the federal loan application, which was viewed as a denial of the application, the developer indicated that the XpressWest project would proceed without providing the details on financial plan.
In 2014, Nevada Senator Harry Reid mentioned that the federal loan request may resurface, but little had been seen so far of the project's continued viability. In 2015, the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority was proposed to look into the feasibility of high-speed rail into southern Nevada from California, possibly XpressWest. The bill was first introduced on April 7, 2015 and was passed by the legislature on May 20, 2015 by a vote of 40–1, and was approved by the Governor on May 27, 2015.
On September 17, 2015, XpressWest and the newly formed China Railway International USA (a consortium of Chinese rail industry companies) announced a joint venture to design, build, and operate the service between Las Vegas and Palmdale, with construction planned to begin in September 2016.
In June 2016, XpressWest announced that the joint venture had been called off. The biggest reason cited for the termination of the joint venture was a federal regulation requiring the manufacture of the high speed trains inside the United States. XpressWest said that they are "undeterred by this development and remains dedicated to completing its high-speed passenger rail project."
XpressWest becomes Brightline West
On September 18, 2018, Fortress Investment Group, which owns an inter-city rail route in Florida called Brightline, announced that it would acquire the XpressWest project from Marnell, indicating that it would begin construction of the rail line in the second half of 2020 with expected completion in the second half of 2024. The project is expected to generate around 18,000 jobs at its peak. Although Los Angeles County finished an environmental assessment for the project in 2016, the exact date the project is supposed to start is unclear; however, by October 2019, design plans were almost 30 percent complete and construction crews were being hired. In September 2020, the line was rebranded once again to Brightline West, and is being called "a Brightline affiliated company."
California and Nevada funding assistance
A high speed line following the Palmdale–Apple Valley–Las Vegas route was included in the 2018 California State Rail Plan as part of the 2040 timeline of projects. Subsequently, the state of California issued tax-exempt, private activity bonds to XpressWest in order to partially fund construction.
In September 2019, it was announced that California would assist the project in funding. In October 2019 California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank approved $3.25 billion in bonds and in April 2020, California government officials signed off on issuing $600 million in tax-exempt private activity bonds for XpressWest. The state of Nevada allocated the company an additional $200 million in private activity bonds in July 2020.
Cofounder and co-CEO of Fortress, Wes Edens, estimated the cost of construction at $8 billion in 2020. In September 2020, up to $3.2 billion in the tax-exempt, private activity bonds were offered. In November, it was decided to let the rights for the sale of the bonds lapse. A bond sale is planned for 2021 as continued progress has the bonds made more attractive to investors.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is also considering re-programming around $2 billion in Measure M funding slated for the High Desert Corridor, a proposed freeway between Victorville and Palmdale cancelled in October 2019, to instead create a development plan for an extension of the XpressWest route between the two cities.
The tracks are planned to be laid within the median strip of Interstate 15, and sections would pass through federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service. The line is not planned to stop at intermediate cities, and would take 84 minutes to complete a one-way trip between Victorville and Las Vegas. While plans at first called for a fully double-track railway along the route, moving to the highway median led Brightline to revise the project and instead operate largely as a single track with passing sidings.
In the original plan, the route did not extend into Los Angeles due to the high cost of building rail in urban areas. The 50-mile (80 km) extension from Victorville to the city of Palmdale, where it would connect to the proposed California High-Speed Rail system in order to provide service to Los Angeles, was not included in the initial phase. In June 2012, the new plan included the link between Victorville and Palmdale as part of construction for the first phase of the project. Passengers would transfer to Metrolink to access the Los Angeles area. In June 2020, the company initiated planning on a rail line south of Apple Valley over the Cajon Pass to Rancho Cucamonga to provide more direct Los Angeles service while also not ruling out the Palmdale expansion. The details of other sections have not been announced, but later phases may include extensions to Phoenix, Arizona; Salt Lake City, Utah; or Denver, Colorado.
In 2009, XpressWest estimated that it will carry around five million round trip passengers in the first full year of operation, with the company charging fares of around $50 for a one-way trip between Victorville and Las Vegas. In 2012, the round-trip fare was planned to be around $89, with trains were expected to run every 20 minutes on peak and up to every 12 minutes as demand requires. As of 2020[update], the stated frequency is 45 minutes between departures.
The 2011 project outline had several options in Las Vegas near the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino or Downtown. One potential Las Vegas station location was approved as the site of Allegiant Stadium, but in 2020 the Las Vegas station was revealed to be located on the empty plot of land bordered by Interstate 15 and Las Vegas Boulevard, between Robindale Road and El Dorado Lane. The Victor Valley train station will in the northeast portion of the town of Apple Valley near I-15 and Dale Evans Parkway. A maintenance facility is also planned be located in the Victor Valley.
An extension into the Greater Los Angeles area could connect to the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station and provide a link to the Ontario International Airport. An extension to the Palmdale station would connect to both the future California High Speed Rail and the existing Metrolink service into Los Angeles.
Right of way agreements
The company entered into an agreement to lease the state-owned Interstate 15 right-of-way from Caltrans, in June 2020. The 50-year lease is in the amount of $842,000 per year starting in 2020, adjusted according to the consumer price index every three years.
Additionally, Brightline entered into a memorandum of understanding with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority to build a spur from Apple Valley to Rancho Cucamonga, providing connectivity within the Inland Empire. Metrolink also approved a memorandum of understanding to study linking the project to Rancho Cucamonga and Palmdale Metrolink stations.
- California-Nevada Interstate Maglev, a proposed maglev from Anaheim, California to Las Vegas.
- California High-Speed Rail
- Las Vegas Railway Express
- "Las Vegas Fact Sheet" (PDF). GoBrightline. Brightline. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
- Akers, Mick (January 14, 2021). "Spring start eyed for construction of Vegas-to-So Cal rail line". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
- Hawley, Tom (December 16, 2020). "VIDEO VAULT | Las Vegas tries to get a high-speed train to California off the ground". KSNV. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
- "LA To Vegas Fact Sheet" (PDF). Brightline. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 27, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
- Jernigan, Meg (December 21, 2017). "How to Travel From Las Vegas to Los Angeles". Travel Tips - USA Today. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
- Ohnsman, Alan (August 22, 2020). "High-Speed Rail Heats Up In California As Brightline Eyes Las Vegas Route Extensions". Forbes. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
- "Los Angeles to Las Vegas Travel Options". About.com. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- "Interstate 15 Northbound – Barstow to Nevada". AARoads. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- "US infrastructure plan spurs talk of Vegas-LA rail service". AP News. April 18, 2021. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
- "KVBC Las Vegas Story". KVBC Television. Las Vegas, Nevada. July 25, 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
- Richard N. Velotta (March 25, 2010). "Work on high-speed rail set to begin this year". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- Velotta, Richard N. (October 22, 2010). "Pressure on DesertXpress in first run at high-speed rail". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- "Conduit Exempt Facility Bondfinancing: DesertXpress Enterprises, LLC" (PDF). California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank. 2018. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- "Federal Railroad Administration, Environmental Impact Statement: DesertXpress High Speed Train Between Apple Valley, CA and Las Vegas, NV" (PDF). Federal Register. 71 (135): 40176−40177. July 14, 2006. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Maldonado, Cinthia (August 28, 2019). "High-speed train back on track, construction set for 2020". KTNV. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
- Richard N. Velotta (March 25, 2011). "DesertXpress high-speed rail project rolls forward". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
- Cy Ryan (October 10, 2011). "DesertXpress hopes for federal loan, aims for 2012 start on work". Las Vegas Sun. Archived from the original on October 28, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- "DesertXpress – Las Vegas to Victorville Environmental Impact Statement". Archived from the original on May 30, 2009.
- "STB approves DesertXpress route". Progressive Railroading. October 27, 2011. Archived from the original on October 28, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- "The Trains". XpressWest. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Gloria Hillard (April 30, 2012). "Towns Debate Impact of Calif.-Las Vegas Bullet Train". NPR. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- "Proven, Reliable, Safe Technology". DesertXpress. 2008. Archived from the original on June 12, 2008. Retrieved August 8, 2008.
- Benjamin Spillman (June 28, 2009). "DesertXpress on right track?". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- "Progress". DesertXpress. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
- "The Network". XpressWest. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Richard N. Velotta (June 11, 2012). "DesertXpress Vegas-California rail project renamed". Associated Press. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Richard N. Velotta (June 7, 2012). "DesertXpress inks deal to add train link from Victorville to Palmdale, making travel to L.A. possible". Vegas Inc. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- "High Speed Rail To Las Vegas Breaks Ground 2017". Canyon News. March 30, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
- Laura Carroll (February 12, 2013). "High-speed train project at least months away from start". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- Velotta, Richard N. (April 22, 2017). "Arrival of Las Vegas Raiders breathes new life into high-speed rail project". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
- Demirjian, Karoun (March 18, 2013). "High-speed rail project beset by political mine fields". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
- "Letter from Ryan and Sessions to LaHood". United States Senate Committee on the Budget Republicans. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
- Warren, Mackenzie (July 12, 2013). "Feds suspend $5.5B loan application for XpressWest". KSNV MyNews3.com. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
- Tetreault, Steve (July 16, 2013). "Feds: XPressWest failed to meet 'Buy America' rules for high-speed train". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
- "XpressWest vows to proceed, despite federal loan denial". Railway Track & Structures. July 22, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
- "Las Vegas rail service plans have seen starts, stops". Las Vegas Review-Journal. September 2, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- Young, Allen (May 26, 2015). "Nevada joins the high-speed rail bandwagon with plans for Vegas, SoCal link". Retrieved May 28, 2015.
- "Vote on SB457". Nevada Legislature. Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau. May 20, 2015. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
- Nevada Legislature SB457, Nevada State Legislature, retrieved July 15, 2015 (Became Chapter 260 - see Bills signed by Governor)
- "US-Chinese joint venture to develop Las Vegas high speed line". Railway Gazette International. September 18, 2015. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
- Makinen, Julie (June 8, 2016). "China will not build L.A.-to-Vegas rail line – U.S. company calls the deal off". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- "Brightline to Build Express Intercity Passenger Rail Connecting Southern California and Las Vegas" (Press release). XpressWest. September 18, 2018. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
- Velotta, Richard N. (September 18, 2018). "Florida firm acquires company planning Las Vegas to LA rail line". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
- "Las Vegas officials eye linking downtown to proposed high-speed rail". May 24, 2019.
- "Virgin Trains USA to Move Ahead on Vegas to Calif. Line". constructionequipmentguide.com.
- "West Coast | Brightline". www.gobrightline.com. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
- "2018 California State Rail Plan (Draft)" (PDF). CalTrans. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 29, 2018. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
- "State Treasurer Fiona Ma announces CDLAC Board approval of $300M in bonds for Apple Valley-Las Vegas high-speed rail". Orange County Breeze. September 21, 2019. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
- "California to assist financing of private California-Vegas train". Associated Press. September 19, 2019.
- "Virgin Trains USA hoping to start construction of train line from Victorville to Las Vegas in 2020". Victor Valley News Group | VVNG.com. October 24, 2019.
- O'Connor, Devin (April 15, 2020). "Virgin Hotels Las Vegas Remains Focused on Fall 2020 Opening, Virgin Trains Receives $600M". Casino.org. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
- Hass, Greg (July 21, 2020). "Financing for DesertXpress line from Las Vegas to Apple Valley takes step forward". KLAS. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ohnsman, Alan (July 24, 2020). "Los Angeles-To-Las Vegas High-Speed Train Wins $200 Million Nevada Bond Allocation". Forbes. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
- Ohnsman, Alan (September 25, 2020). "Rail Startup Brightline Kicks Off $3.2 Billion Bond Sale For LA-To-Vegas High-Speed Train". Forbes. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
- Akers, Mick (October 5, 2020). "Vegas-to-LA high-speed train could serve as Raiders fan pipeline". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
- Horwath, Bryan (November 2, 2020). "Las Vegas-California high-speed rail project hits snag". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
- Akers, Mike (October 26, 2020). "Brightline reveals more details about Vegas-to-LA high-speed rail line". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
- Akers, Mick (December 9, 2020). "Nevada reallocates $200M in bonds from high-speed rail to affordable housing". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
- De La Cruz, Rene Ray (January 19, 2021). "With revised plan, Brightline eyes 2021 groundbreaking of Apple Valley rail project". Victor Valley Daily Press. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
- Komenda, Ed (April 9, 2021). "Brightline CEO: Vegas-to-LA high-speed rail line still on track to break ground in 2021". Reno Gazette Journal. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
- "Editorial: It was a terrible idea to build a new freeway in Los Angeles County. Now it's on hold for good". Los Angeles Times. October 6, 2019. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
- Linton, Joe (August 19, 2020). "Metro Looks to Shift High Desert Freeway Funds to High-Speed Rail". Streetsblog Los Angeles. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
- "Caltrans and XpressWest Complete Lease Agreement". Caltrans. June 30, 2020. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
- Akers, Mick (June 30, 2020). "High-speed rail project gets OK to use I-15 right of way in California". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
- Lisa Mascaro (July 2, 2009). "Path clears for federal support of fast train to California". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- "Digest: Proposed Las Vegas high speed project seeks STB approval of route changes". Trains. September 17, 2020. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
- "Expansion and connectivity". Desert Xpress. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
- Burroughs, David (July 2, 2020). "Virgin Trains plans extension of LA – Las Vegas high-speed line". International Railway Journal. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
- Rosenberg, Mike (July 29, 2012). "Bay Area to Sin City? Las Vegas bullet train backers gamble on record loan". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
- "China, U.S. Reach Agreement on High-Speed Rail Before Xi Visit". Bloomberg. September 16, 2015.
- "Construction on Las Vegas-California train could start this year". Las Vegas Sun. April 15, 2020. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
- "DesertXpress Vol2: Appendix_A-3_Station_Site_Plan.pdf". United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- Martin, Bradley (February 11, 2020). "Dine Outdoors at the Virgin Trains Las Vegas Terminal in 2023". Eater Vegas. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
- "Brightline West: High Speed Train from Apple Valley to Las Vegas". Town of Apple Valley. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
- "Clark County OKs plans for high-speed train station". Las Vegas Review-Journal. March 4, 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
- "Virgin Trains USA buys land in California". KTNV. March 13, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
- Sharp, Steven (July 7, 2020). "High-Speed Train to Las Vegas Takes Another Step Forward". Urbanize LA. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
- Lilly, Caitlin (June 30, 2020). "XpressWest receives permission to use I-15 right-of-way in California". KVVU-TV. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
- "High-speed train company receives permission to use I-15 right-of-way in California". KTNV. June 30, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
- Parsons, Jim (July 8, 2020). "Vegas-LA High-Speed Rail Line Can Use Interstate 15 Right-of-Way". Engineering News-Record. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
- Federal Railroad Administration flyer regarding Desert Xpress scoping meetings
- Federal Railroad Administration Posting of Environmental Impact Statement