Las Vegas Sun

January 16, 2019

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Nevada high-speed rail panel moving forward with XPressWest

XpressWest map

Source: DesertXpress Enterprises LLC

Three train lines could meet in Palmdale, allowing passengers access to mass transit up and down California.

During a three-hour meeting Wednesday, the five-member Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority unanimously selected XpressWest as the state’s franchisee for constructing a high-speed rail system that connects Las Vegas with Southern California.

Four applicants competed with XpressWest’s bid but authority officials were in agreement that the proposal was the only one that met their evaluation criteria.

XpressWest officials said they could start construction as early as fall 2016. The project aims to link Las Vegas to Los Angeles.

The board, created in May by Senate Bill 457, was charged with selecting a private developer to operate the rail system and was required to evaluate the applications based on the completion of environmental studies, level of private investment, pending regulatory permits, and how far the applicant is from the start of construction. XpressWest is now required to provide the board with progress reports twice a year. The board, in addition to reviewing the progress, can also help facilitate intergovernmental partnerships.

The initial phase of the XpressWest project, which will link Las Vegas to Victorville, Calif., will cost $8 billion. “In high-speed rail terms, most projects are a lot more expensive than this,” said Nick Hann, an executive at the Macquarie Group working with XpressWest.

The line will mostly run adjacent to Interstate 15, offering roundtrip service for under $100. The project’s second phase will link Las Vegas with Palmdale, via the Victorville station. Riders will then be able to connect with Metrolink to take the train to Los Angeles. In its last phase, XpressWest plans to link its system to California’s high-speed rail. Its technology is interoperable with California’s.

Earlier this month, the Las Vegas-based XpressWest project, formerly named DesertXpress, announced a $100 million investment from a consortium of state-owned Chinese companies. XpressWest officials said they do not plan to seek public funding from the state.

At Wednesday’s meeting, XpressWest’s Chief Operating Officer Andrew Mack said China Railway International, the firm that has committed the $100 million, has a “deep and proven track record in building and operating and financing high-speed rail.”

Construction and implementation of the project is expected to take about five years, with both the Las Vegas to Victorville line and the Victorville to Palmdale line finished at the same time.

Five applicants bid on serving as the state’s high-speed rail franchisee. The authority heard presentations from four of the applicants. One applicant, Nevada Intercity Passenger Railroad Co., did not present. Members of the authority said the other applicants had interesting ideas but were in agreement that the proposals did not meet their criteria. XpressWest has been seeking permits for years.

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