High-speed rail from SoCal region to Las Vegas inches toward reality with new financial backer

A high-speed train from SoCal to Las Vegas has been the high-hope, will-it-really-happen legend that has long plagued the dreams of residents, with multiple projects going in and out of existence and feeling more mythical than tangible.

One step toward tangibility has, at least for now, occurred following the announcement that Brightline—the private intercity train line that will be opening its Orlando-to-Miami route in Florida in 2022—has acquired the rights to the XpressWest, a line that would take travelers from Los Angeles to Palmdale to Victorville to Las Vegas, with that last stretch from Victorville to Sin City taking 84 minutes.

Garnering the rights from the Feds for the project in 2005, developer and Vegas giant Marnell Corrao Associates—the company behind casino giants like the Bellagio and Wynn on The Strip—had planned on breaking ground that very year. Clearly, things didn’t pan out: The $6.9-billion project, of which Marnell would put up $1.4 billion while the rest of funding would be borrowed under the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program, had never accumulated enough backing to get off the ground.

The interior of Brightline's Florida rail carts that runs from Orlando to Miami. Courtesy of Brightline.

The interior of Brightline’s Florida rail carts that runs from Orlando to Miami. Courtesy of Brightline.

Incentives for Brightline, which declined to provide specifics over the finances of the deal, include the entitled project: They can break ground whenever they want—and they plan to do so by next year and have initial operations from Victorville to Las Vegas going by 2022. Connections to and from Los Angeles and Palmdale directly will begin thereafter.

To cut down on costs, the rail will not be legally defined as high-speed; rather, it will travel at 78 mph, with no crossings or stops between Victorville and Las Vegas.

“Brightline is changing transportation in our country by connecting heavily trafficked corridors that are too long to drive and too short to fly,” stated Wes Edens, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Fortress Investment Group. “Our experience in Florida is proving that private-sector investment has a meaningful role to play in developing transportation infrastructure. We’re excited to bring Brightline’s world-class and convenient travel experience to Southern California and Las Vegas.”

According to Brightline, 50 million motorists travel from SoCal to Las Vegas each year.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food to politics to urban transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 12 nominations and an additional win for Best Political Commentary. Born in Big Bear, he has lived in Long Beach since college. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.