The company aiming to build a high-speed train track from Southern California to Las Vegas still plans to break ground this spring, officials say. Meanwhile, Amtrak is looking to open a similar route.
Brightline West CEO Mike Reininger said the high-speed train remains a “very high priority” for the company, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. The above-ground track would carry passengers 170 miles from Apple Valley, California, to Las Vegas. Apple Valley is about 90 miles east of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County.
Train speeds are projected to reach 200 mph, with a travel time of about three hours. The all-electric train would be the fastest in the country, according to the Brightline West website. Construction is expected to last three years.
Earlier this year, Brightline sent a letter to the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority outlining the difficulties of financing the $8 billion project during a pandemic.
However, Brightline West President Sarah Watterson said the company was prepared financially to begin construction in the second quarter of 2021. This means construction is supposed to start at some point between now and June 30.
Reininger would not give the newspaper an exact date on when construction will start. But he said the financial markets are “dramatically different” now.
“The stock market is doing incredibly well, people are optimistic about a massive rebound in the economy, jobs are heading in the right direction,” he said. “That gives us confidence about our ability to keep the project on track.”
In a recent development, Amtrak released a map showing where it would provide expanded service if Congress approves President Joe Biden’s proposed additional $80 billion for the traditional rail service. The map includes a line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
Brightline’s Reininger told the newspaper he welcomes both services, but believes his company’s will be “superior.”
“Everything and anything that gets Americans thinking about, talking about, and changing their habits towards trains as an acceptable and desirable mode of transportation, we are fervent fans of,” he said.
Longtime Las Vegas residents have been skeptical for years that a high-speed train from the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas will be built.
The Los Angeles metropolitan area is at least four hours away from Las Vegas by car. A long-standing challenge for Southern Nevada tourism officials has been to speed up that trip with rail service. However, the plans have never materialized.
Late last year, KSNV-TV reporter Tom Hawley said during a broadcast that it is “not exactly new” in Las Vegas to learn that a high-speed train plan has fallen apart.
We’ve been hearing variations going back three-and-a-half decades,” he said.
In the comments section of an earlier Casino.org story, a reader identified as CJ wrote, “Stop the talk and get it together.”
Biden said in February that if the US doesn’t “get moving” on high-speed rail projects, China is going to “eat our lunch.”
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