Las Vegas-to-California high-speed electric rail project gets OK for $2.5B more in bonds

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By AP NEWS

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A proposed high-speed passenger train between Las Vegas and Southern California got another boost on Tuesday with Biden administration approval to issue $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds for the $12 billion project.

The announcement benefiting the Brightline West project followed a $3 billion U.S. Department of Transportation grant in December and government authorization in 2020 for the company to sell $1 billion in similar bonds.

“We appreciate the confidence placed in us by DOT and are ready to get to work,” Brightline founder and Chairman Wes Edens said in a statement. Florida-based Brightline Holdings LLC currently operates the only privately-owned intercity passenger railroad in the U.S., linking Miami and Orlando with trains reaching speeds up to 125 mph (200 kph).

The 218-mile (351-kilometer) Brightline West project aims to whisk passengers at 186 mph (300 kph) or more in electric trains on new tracks along the Interstate 15 corridor — cutting in half a four-hour freeway trip between Las Vegas and suburban San Bernardino County near Los Angeles.

Planners and politicians say the project has all the required right-of-way and environmental approvals, along with labor agreements, and should help alleviate weekend and end-of-holiday travel traffic jams that often stretch for 15 miles (25 kilometers) on I-15 near the Nevada-California line.

Nevada U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat who has backed the project in Congress, said she expects the long-sought rail link will boost Nevada’s tourism economy and create thousands of jobs while reducing traffic and pollution.

No date has been announced for work to start, but officials have said it might be operational by the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028.

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