Las Vegas Sun

June 24, 2019

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Brightline taking over Las Vegas-California rail project


Wilfredo Lee / AP

In this Jan. 11, 2018 file photo a Brightline train is shown at the station, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A plan to build a high-speed train between Southern California and Las Vegas is back on track now that a private rail company has taken over the project. Brightline announced Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, that it has acquired the rights to XpressWest’s 185-mile federally approved rail corridor along Interstate 15.

A long planned high-speed train project to link Southern California and Las Vegas has new ownership.

Brightline, a rail service with operations in Florida, announced today that it has acquired XpressWest, a high-speed rail project aimed at connecting Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Construction is planned to begin next year, with Brightline planning to begin service in 2022.

“Brightline is changing transportation in our country by connecting heavily trafficked corridors that are too long to drive and too short to fly,” Wes Edens, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Brightline owner Fortress Investment Group, said in a statement.

In Florida, Brightline links Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

“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,” Edens said.

Travelers make more than 50 million trips a year by car and plane between Southern California and Las Vegas, according to Brightline.

Announced in 2009 as DesertXpress, owner Tony Marnell, a local developer, changed the name of the planned high-speed rail service to XpressWest in 2012.

Construction of the rail line, which would run parallel to Interstate 15, was supposed to start in fall 2016, after XpressWest entered a joint-agreement with China Railway International to help with financing. Those plans, however, never materialized.

In 2016, the estimated cost of the project was estimated at $8 billion, according to XpressWest.

“The XpressWest team has done an incredible job bringing this project together and we’re confident that Brightline will fulfill our mission and promise to the region,” Marnell said in a statement. “We’ve been impressed with what Brightline has accomplished in Florida and are excited to be part of the team that is working to deliver privately funded high-speed rail to improve mobility in America.”

The planned Las Vegas Station is expected to be located in the resort corridor, and as part of the project, Brightline is acquiring 38 acres adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip for construction of the station and mixed-used development.

The first Southern California station is planned for Victorville, within a 30- to 45-minute drive of the 4 million to 5 million people who live in the Inland Empire and eastern Los Angeles County, and within close proximity to Southern California’s remaining 17 million to 18 million residents.

Planning for additional stations and connectivity to California Metrolink and California High-Speed Rail is ongoing.

“The introduction of high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Southern California will bring significant economic and environmental benefits to our state and support increased tourism,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. “Brightline has built a proven model for privately funded high-speed rail service in Florida, and we are excited to welcome them to Nevada.”