US Rep. Dina Titus (D) is among congressional members pushing for federal help in building high-speed rail lines like the proposed route from Southern California to the Las Vegas resort corridor.
Titus is urging federal officials to raise the cap on private activity bonds to assist in building the high-speed rail line to Southern Nevada, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. A former Nevada legislator now serving in Congress, Titus supports a high-speed train route to her hometown Las Vegas from the Los Angeles area.
“We’ve been trying to work it with the Ways and Means Committee to lift the cap on some of those bonds that they’ve applied for to use for the construction for it here in Nevada,” Titus said.
Brightline West is proposing to build a 200-mph train from Apple Valley, Calif., to Las Vegas. The all-electric train would be the fastest in the nation.
Brightline Holdings CEO Mike Reininger has asked federal officials to raise the annual volume cap on private activity bonds from $15 billion to $30 billion. These bonds are a major funding source for the proposed High Desert passenger rail line. He said the current $15 billion has “already been exhausted,” according to the company’s website. The House Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure conducted a hearing on the issue last week.
Apple Valley is about 90 miles east of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County. The above-ground route along Interstate 15 would take about three hours to cover 170 miles from the Inland Empire to a station near the Las Vegas Strip. Tickets are expected to cost $60 one way.
Brightline officials have said the company expects to begin construction by July 1.
However, Phillip Washington, of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told Titus last week that construction could begin “in the next 12 months or so,” according to the Nevada Independent website.
Brightline halted the project last year, citing difficulties in financing the $8 billion passenger service during the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Eat Our Lunch’
Shortly after he took office at the beginning of this year, President Joe Biden (D) cautioned that China is surging ahead of the US in high-speed rail service.
A day after speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping in February, Biden noted China is investing billions on transportation and other infrastructure needs.
They have a major, major new initiative on rail, and they already have rail that goes 225 miles an hour with ease,” Biden said. “They’re going to, you know, if we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch.”
Biden recently appeared at a media event in Lake Charles, La., to seek support for his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.
Lake Charles was clobbered last year by two deadly hurricanes that shredded parts of South Louisiana. Several casinos in the Lake Charles area were damaged in the destructive storms that barreled ashore only weeks apart.
I-15 Traffic Problems
Last week, US Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) said the US is investing “virtually nothing” in high-speed rail service. The Oregon congressman is chairman of the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“When you invest nothing, you get nothing,” he said.
For several decades, Las Vegas tourism officials have sought mass transportation options to ease traffic congestion from Southern California to Las Vegas. Backed-up traffic and long delays become a problem on I-15, especially as California visitors head home from Las Vegas hotel-casinos on Sundays.
Other mass transportation efforts along that major route also are under consideration. Amtrak recently has proposed a passenger line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Congress has not decided whether to fund the Amtrak proposal.
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