02:16 pm
October 15, 2018

Brightline building Las Vegas-California route

Brightline building Las Vegas-California route
Brightline train's have an eye-catching color scheme

Brightline on Tuesday announced it had acquired XpressWest, a high-speed passenger rail project with rights to develop a federally approved corridor connecting the distant Los Angeles suburb of Victorville with 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,”  Wes Edens, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Brightline owner Fortress Investment Group, said in a press release. “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.”

Brightline will link one of the most traveled routes in the country, connecting more than 22 million people living in Southern California with Las Vegas, one of the most visited cities in the U.S., Brightline says.  According to ridership studies, travelers make more than 50 million annual trips between Las Vegas and Southern California.  Brightline expects to make the trip in less than two hours and eventually expand service closer to Los Angeles.

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

The first phase of the corridor is expected to be built on a right of way within and adjacent to Interstate 15, traversing 185 miles with no at-grade or pedestrian crossings. Construction is expected to begin next year and Brightline said it is planning to begin initial service in 2022.

“Brightline’s model is setting a new standard for train travel in America,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline. “Today’s announcement is an important milestone for our company as we reimagine transportation between these major metropolitan areas. We look forward to working with the region’s stakeholders to make this vision a reality.”

Brightline’s management team is featured as the cover story on the September issue of SFBW. (Click here for a list of SFBW’s articles about the train service.)

“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,” said Tony Marnell, founder and chief executive officer of Marnell Companies. “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 within the resort corridor and will be a major intermodal hub with access to taxis, buses, shuttles and limousines.  As part of the project, Brightline is acquiring approximately 38 acres of land adjacent to the Las Vegas strip for construction of the station and mixed-used development.

The first planned Southern California station is expected to be located in Victorville within a 30- to 45-minute drive of the approximately four to five million people who live in the Inland Empire and eastern Los Angeles County, and within proximity to Southern California’s remaining 17 to 18 million residents.  Planning for additional stations and connectivity to California Metrolink and eventually California High-Speed Rail is underway.

Marnell’s plan envisioned a 60-mile link west between Victorville and Palmdale, California, where the line would meet with Southern California’s Metrolink commuter rail lines and the California High-Speed Rail line that is under construction, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

The Wall Street Journal said Marnell had trouble raising the $7 billion for the project, but Brightline expected to do the project for half that amount.

Fortress and its parent, SoftBank Group of Japan, represent deep pocket owners to pull off the project.  Brightline also has spurred real estate projects, including office buildings, apartments and retail in South Florida. The 38 acres in Las Vegas would conceivably offer a similar opportunity.

“California has a vision for a modernized rail network that is fast, clean, and convenient for travelers, and the introduction of Brightline service linking Southern California to Las Vegas will help us achieve that vision” said California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Annis. “Brightline will be beneficial for our economy and our transportation system.”

Similar to Brightline’s operations in Florida, the corridor between Southern California and Las Vegas is expected to generate major regional economic benefits, including construction and permanent job opportunities and local and state tax revenue.

In addition to Brightline’s Florida development and operations and its anticipated development and operations between Las Vegas and Southern California announced today, Brightline continues to explore intercity rail opportunities across North America.  Atlanta to Charlotte is another city pair Brightline officials have indicated might be attractive.

Brightline currently runs from Miami to West Palm Beach and is poised to begin an extension to Orlando International Airport. It is also seeking state approval for a corridor from the airport to Tampa. Stay tuned for updates.

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