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Brightline West

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Brightline West
Service typeHigh-speed inter-city rail
StatusUnder construction[1]
LocaleCalifornia, Nevada
Desert Wind
First service2028 (anticipated – before LA28)
Current operator(s)Brightline
TerminiRancho Cucamonga, California, US
Enterprise, Nevada, US
StopsVictor Valley, Hesperia California, US
Distance travelled218 miles (351 km)[2]
Average journey timeApprox. 2h 10m[2]
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead line at 25 kV (AC)
Operating speed
  • Maximum:
  • 180 or 200 mph (290 or 320 km/h)
  • Average:
  • 101 mph (165 km/h)[2]
Track owner(s)DesertXpress Enterprises, LLC[3] (Fortress Investment Group)[4]
Route map
Las Vegas
maintenance facility
Victor Valley
Rancho Cucamonga
Metrolink (California) Ontario International Airport
Down arrow future phases
Metrolink (California) California High-Speed Rail
Los Angeles
Metrolink (California) Amtrak California High-Speed Rail

Brightline West is a privately run high-speed rail route, currently under construction, to link the Las Vegas Valley and Rancho Cucamonga in the Greater Los Angeles area through the California high desert. The line will connect with existing rail at Rancho Cucamonga station of Metrolink's San Bernardino Line, a commuter rail line in Southern California. The project is intended to provide an alternative to air and automobile travel between Southern California and Las Vegas, a popular leisure destination. In December 2023, the United States Department of Transportation awarded Brightline West a $3 billion grant as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Construction, initially expected to begin shortly after the grant was announced in 2023, began on April 22, 2024.[5][6][7][8] Revenue service is planned to start in 2028.[9]

The line was developed starting in 2005 as DesertXpress and has passed through several developers and investors. In September 2018, the project known as XpressWest, was acquired by Fortress Investment Group, which owns Brightline in Florida, the only privately run inter-city rail route in the United States. An extension of Brightline West from Victor Valley to the California High-Speed Rail station in Palmdale is also under consideration.


Las Vegas is a gambling and tourist destination for the Greater Los Angeles area.[10] Interstate 15 is a direct route between the two regions.[11][12][13] An estimated 50 million people travel between Los Angeles and Las Vegas annually, with 85% using a car.[14] Travel by automobile takes over four hours[15] while scheduled buses cover the route in five to seven hours.[16] As an important freight route, reduced congestion on Interstate 15 would benefit the supply chain.[17]

The highway carries heavy traffic on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday which causes significant delays.[18] Motorists returning to Los Angeles on Sunday can create a 18-mile (29 km) backup.[19] Airlines have direct flights, but traffic and security at the airport add time to the short flight.[20][12] Las Vegas lost its last passenger train service in 1997 when Amtrak canceled the Desert Wind.[21]

Brightline project[edit]

In September 2018, Fortress Investment Group, which owns an inter-city rail route in Florida called Brightline, announced that it would acquire the federally approved XpressWest rail corridor project, 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. After some delays, groundbreaking began on April 22, 2024 with expected service starting sometime in 2028.[22] The project is expected to generate around 18,000 jobs at its peak. Los Angeles County finished an environmental assessment for the project in 2016. In October 2019, design plans were almost 30% complete.[23] In September 2020, the line was rebranded to Brightline West, and is being called "a Brightline affiliated company."[24][25]

Funding assistance[edit]

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.[26] Subsequently, the state of California issued tax-exempt, private activity bonds to XpressWest to partially fund construction.[27] These bonds are meant to assist private ventures for the public interest.[28]

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.[29][30] In April 2020, California government officials signed off on issuing $600 million in tax-exempt private activity bonds for XpressWest.[31][32] The state of Nevada allocated the company an additional $200 million in private activity bonds in July 2020.[33]

Cofounder and co-CEO of Fortress, Wes Edens, estimated the cost of construction at $8 billion in 2020.[34] In September 2020, up to $3.2 billion in the tax-exempt, private activity bonds were offered.[35] In November, it was decided to let the rights for the sale of the bonds lapse.[36][37][38] A bond sale was planned for 2021 but was moved to 2022 to allow continued progress on project planning and for the bonds to be more attractive to investors.[39][40][41]

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is 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.[42][43][44]

In February 2023, the company applied for $3.75 billion in funding from Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.[45] A bipartisan congressional group from Nevada and California wrote a letter in April 2023 in support of the funding.[46] In December 2023, the United States Department of Transportation awarded Brightline West $3 billion of the grant request.[10] In January 2024, Brightline West received $2.5 billion of private activity bonds from the US Department of Transportation.[47] The remainder of the cost (estimated at $12 billion as of April 2024[48]) is expected to be privately financed.[49]

Rancho Cucamonga extension[edit]

The company initiated planning on a rail line over the Cajon Pass to Rancho Cucamonga in June 2020.[50] The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in November 2021 has billions of dollars for rail projects which provides expanded opportunities for companies such as Brightline.[51] In January 2022, the Federal Transportation Department's Federal Rail Administration began reviewing the 49-mile segment (79 km) that would allow speeds of up to 180 miles per hour (290 km/h).

The environmental report for the Rancho Cucamonga route was released in October 2022.[52] The environmental report includes the location of the proposed intermediate station in Hesperia. The report notes some mitigation measures will be necessary: temporary impacts on noise and wetlands, temporary and permanent impacts on some threatened or endangered species, visual impacts on views in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains, and traffic impacts around stations in Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga. The report concludes that the project "will not result in a significant impact on the environment" or have "disproportionately high and adverse impacts" on low-income or minority populations.[53] The environmental permit was approved in July 2023.[54]

The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority was awarded a $25-million grant in July 2023 from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program to fund design and construction costs of the stations in Hesperia and Apple Valley.[55][56]


Preparatory work involving ground surveys in the right of way of Interstate 15 and recruitment of up to 11,000 workers began in January 2024.[57][58] A groundbreaking ceremony was held on April 22, 2024, at the planned Las Vegas station site, marking the official start of construction.[1]


The tracks are planned to be laid in the median of Interstate 15, aside from a short section connecting to Rancho Cucamonga and a section on the east side of the highway approaching the Las Vegas station.[59][60] Sections will pass through federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.[61][62] While plans at first called for a fully double-track railway along the route, Brightline intends to initially build the project as a mostly single-track route with passing sidings, in part because additional sections were moved to the highway median where space is more limited.[63]

Interstate 15 approaching Cave Mountain, California (above) and in the Ivanpah Valley, Nevada (below). The line is planned to run in the highway median strip for most of its length.

In the original plan, the route did not extend into Los Angeles due to the high cost of building rail in urban areas.[64] The 50-mile (80 km) extension from Victor Valley to the city of Palmdale, where it would connect to the California High-Speed Rail system currently in development, in order to provide service to Los Angeles, was not included in the initial phase.[65] In June 2012, the new plan included the link between Victor Valley and Palmdale as part of construction for the first phase of the project. Passengers would transfer to Metrolink to access the Los Angeles area.[66]

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 not ruling out the Palmdale expansion.[50] The details of other sections have not been announced. Later phases may include extensions to Phoenix, Arizona, Salt Lake City, Utah, or Denver, Colorado.[67][68]

In 2009, XpressWest estimated that it will carry around five million round trip passengers in the first full year of operation,[69] with the company charging fares of around $50 for a one-way trip between Victorville and Las Vegas.[70] In 2012, the round-trip fare was planned to be around $89,[71] with trains expected to run every 20 minutes on peak, and up to every 12 minutes as demand requires.[72] As of 2020, the stated frequency is 45 minutes between departures.[73]

In 2023, Brightline West relocated more sections of the route into the median of I-15. The Victor Valley station was reconfigured to have passenger platforms in the highway median. The vehicle maintenance facility was moved from the Victor Valley site to a 246-acre parcel (100 ha) west of I-15 in Sloan, Nevada and will connect to the Union Pacific mainline at this location.[74]


The Las Vegas station will be south of the Las Vegas Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard in Enterprise.[75] The 110-acre site (45 ha) is across from the Premium Outlets South mall.[44] The two-story station will feature retail and restaurant space.[76] The Las Vegas station on Las Vegas Boulevard was announced in 2020. The land was acquired in July 2021.[44] In April 2023, renderings of the Las Vegas station were released.[77]

Victor Valley station will be in the northeast portion of the town of Apple Valley, adjacent to I-15 at Dale Evans Parkway.[78][40] Passenger platforms will be in the median of I-15 and accessed via walkway under the northbound lanes of the highway.[55][79][80]

A station in Hesperia will be built in the median of I-15 at the Joshua St exit.[81] Trains will make limited stops here in the morning and evening.[82]

The line will continue into the Greater Los Angeles area, terminating at Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station.[83] Service to a planned transit center incorporating the station will operate under the jurisdiction of the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA).[84] SBCTA and the city of Rancho Cucamonga approved the sale of a 5-acre parcel (2.0 ha) to Brightline for the high speed rail station in 2022.[85] A proposed 2.8 miles (4.5 km) underground people-mover would provide a link to the Ontario International Airport. Omnitrans currently offers direct bus service to the airport from this station.[86][87]

High Desert Corridor[edit]

The High Desert Corridor is a proposed high speed rail connection between Brightline West and California High Speed Rail. It will connect Victor Valley station and Palmdale station. At Palmdale, passengers can connect to the existing Metrolink service or continue on into Los Angeles using California High Speed Rail's tracks.[13]

Right of way agreements[edit]

In June 2020, the company entered into an agreement to lease the state-owned Interstate 15 right-of-way between Las Vegas and Victor Valley from California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).[88][83][89] 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.[90] A similar agreement for the Apple Valley to Rancho Cucamonga segment was signed in March 2023.[91]

Brightline entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority in 2020 for the spur between Apple Valley to Rancho Cucamonga, as it provided connectivity within the Inland Empire.[83][50] Metrolink also approved a MOU to study the links to the Rancho Cucamonga and Palmdale Metrolink stations.[13] A MOU was signed in October 2021 with the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), Caltrans, and California High-Speed Rail Authority, for the use of 48 miles (77 km) within Interstate 15 to Rancho Cucamonga.[92][93]

Wildlife crossings[edit]

A 6-foot-high concrete barrier (1.8 m) will keep vehicles away from the rail line along the center divider of Interstate 15. This would prevent animals from making what is already a dangerous crossing of the freeway. Desert bighorn sheep once thrived in these mountain ranges, though they now face many challenges. Wildlife researchers determined that wildlife crossings at Soda, Cady and Clark mountains could help sustain the sheep and other wildlife.[94]

Under an agreement with the California Department of Transportation and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, wildlife crossings will cross over the freeway and the rail line at the three proposed locations.[45] Hundreds of existing culverts and crossings under the Interstate will be maintained or improved. Fencing to protect the desert tortoise and to exclude wildlife will be restored or installed as part of the project.[95]

Rolling stock[edit]

The Renfe Class 103 is a Siemens Velaro high speed train in service in Spain similar to that proposed for Brightline West.

Vehicles will require a high power-to-weight ratio to climb steep grades on the planned route – up to 4.5% between Victorville and Las Vegas,[96] and up to 6% through Cajon Pass.[97] The Velaro series was designed for the German high speed rail system which has grades up to 4% on the Cologne–Frankfurt high-speed rail line. This is already a better climbing performance than specified by the European Union's Technical Specifications for Interoperability, which mandate a maximum grade of 3.5%.

Brightline was in active discussion until mid-2024 with Alstom and Siemens Mobility to procure rolling stock for the service and for potential future routes.[98][99] In May 2024, Siemens announced that Brightline had selected them as the preferred train vendor for Brightline West service.[100] The initial order consists of ten American Pioneer 220 trainsets.[100]

The service plans to use the American Pioneer 220 (American version of the new Siemens Velaro Novo) rolling stock.[101][102] Brightline would be the first customer of the Siemens Velaro Novo platform, which has been tested in Germany using the ICE-S train,[103][40][34] and has a designed top speed of 225 mph (360 km/h).[104][105]

The service will use up to 25 train pairs,[106] traveling up to 200 miles per hour (320 km/h),[2] at 45 minute intervals.[106]

Early project development[edit]


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.[107] The station would include free parking and through-checking of baggage straight to the Las Vegas Strip resorts.[62] A future extension would have included a new link to the California High-Speed Rail station in Palmdale.[108]

DesertXpress Enterprises, LLC was founded in 2005 to develop, construct, own and operate the high-speed rail project. 70% of the company was held by Anthony A. Marnell II of Marnell Corrao Associates through his DX, LLC company. Gary Tharaldson and François Badeau held 20 and 10%, respectively.[109] In 2006, the preparation of a first Federal Railroad Administration-Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was started.[110]

The total cost of the link between Apple Valley and Las Vegas was expected to be around US$5 billion.[111] In March 2010, project planners said they could obtain the full funding amount through exclusively private investors,[62][112] but had also applied for a $4.9 billion loan through the federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program.[112] 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.[113]

A preferred design was identified with the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement in April 2011, which began a public comment period that ended in May 2011. The federal government approved the design in July 2011.[69] The planned route was approved by the Surface Transportation Board in October 2011.[114] The trains were to be self-propelled, all electric multiple unit (EMU) trains with maximum speed of 150 mph (240 km/h).[72]

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.[115][116][117] In March 2010, executives with the project said they expected construction to begin in 2010.[62] 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.[113][118]

Transformation to XpressWest[edit]

In June 2012, the developer announced a 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,[119] and Denver, Colorado.[120] The project was rebranded to XpressWest to reflect the expanded mission.[71]

DesertXpress Enterprises 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 Victor Valley 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.[66]

Joint venture[edit]

In February 2013, the federal loan remained unapproved and construction was not expected to start until mid-2014 at the earliest.[121][122][123]

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.[124] 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.[125]

In July 2013, there were reports that loan was indefinitely suspended,[126] 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.[127] 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.[128]

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.[129] 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.[130] The bill was introduced in April 2015, and was passed by the legislature in May 2015, by a vote of 40–1.[131] It was approved by the Governor in May 2015.[132]

In September 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.[133] A CAHSRA spokesperson said that there have been ongoing discussions concerning allowing the trains to use California High-Speed Rail lines to go further into the Los Angeles area, although no commitments had been made.[134]

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."[135]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

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