Brightline buys high-speed rail project linking Las Vegas to L.A.

SoCal has been working to create regional and interstate high-speed rail options for years

Sep.September 19, 2018 12:00 PM
“XpressWest” – a high-speed rail project that will connect Las Vegas to Southern California, with plans to link directly to Los Angeles

The 270-mile drive from Downtown Los Angeles to Las Vegas – one of the most traveled routes in the country – normally takes more than four hours to complete. Now an East Coast rail company plans to cut that in half.

Florida-based firm Brightline announced this week that it will acquire “XpressWest” – a high-speed rail project that will connect Las Vegas to Southern California, with plans to link directly to Los Angeles.

Construction is expected to begin next year, and Brightline is planning to begin service in 2022. When complete, the rail line will be the second privately funded intercity passenger rail system in the country.

Southern California has been working to create regional and interstate high-speed rail options for years. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has proposed creating a Hyperloop that would connect riders from Los Angeles and San Francisco in under an hour.

Brightline, part of parent company Fortress Investment Group, will take over the development and operation of the L.A.-to-Vegas project. When it’s complete, the firm expects to make the trip under two hours for passengers, without having to drive or wait through security at the airport.

The first station planned for Southern California will be in Victorville. The rail is planned along the Interstate-15 corridor and trains will be able to travel over 150 mph to arrive in Las Vegas in about 80 minutes. The federally approved system will be interoperable with the California High Speed Rail system, with a planned station in Palmdale, and future service into Burbank and Los Angeles’ Union Station.

Brightline will also extend its rail to existing Metrolink commuter systems with service to Orange, Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino counties. It is expected to divert an estimated 25 percent of the existing 50 million annual trips off of the freeway between the two regions.

“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 Fortress Investment Group, said in a statement.

An average round trip ticket on Brightline’s rail is expected to cost $89. On board the trains, staff will offer riders hotel check-in services, and dinner and show reservations.

The firm is also in the process of acquiring 38 acres of land adjacent to the Las Vegas strip to construct a station and mixed-use development.

The rail project marks a major expansion for Brightline, as it will be the firm’s first corridor outside of Florida. The company operates rail service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The company is currently expanding to Orlando and plans to expand into Tampa. Earlier this month, The Real Deal reported that Brightline officials have started working with city managers in four additional cities – Fort Pierce, Sebastian, Stuart and Vero Beach – to identify more possible station locations.

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