Brightline bullet train offers chance for transit projects in Las Vegas

“Millions of square feet” of casinos, offices, apartments expected around terminal

Brighline bullet train breaks ground between LA and Las Vegas
Tony Marnell II, Brightline's Wes Edens and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg at groundbreaking ceremony for the Brightline West Las Vegas station (Getty, Brightline, Grimshaw Architects)

Brightline West has pounded its first spike in its 218-mile high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, terminating at a 110-acre parcel ripe for development.

The unit of Miami-based Brightline broke ground on the $12 billion electrified line between Rancho Cucamonga and the Las Vegas Strip, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The project offers a chance for transit-oriented development in a car-centric city. The Las Vegas station will take up 20 acres with the remaining acreage filled with commercial development, Brightline founder Wesley Edens said.

“You’ll see millions of square feet of development here,” Edens declared. “It could be casinos, apartments, office buildings; a whole host of things could really happen here.”

The 80,000-square-foot station will have a parking garage and will be located along Las Vegas Boulevard near Blue Diamond Road, southeast of the I-15 and 215 interchange. The location is close to Harry Reid International Airport, Allegiant Stadium, the Strip and Las Vegas Convention Center.

The high-speed railway is expected to be completed in four years, before the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

A high-speed rail journey from Rancho Cucamonga to lower Las Vegas could take 2.5 hours.

The 80,000-square-foot Rancho Cucamonga station will be built on 5 acres on the northwest corner of Milliken Avenue and Azusa Court, north of Ontario International Airport. It will be joined by a Metrolink rail stop, where passengers can transfer to connections to Los Angeles, and Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

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The high-speed tracks will run up the median of Interstate 15 from its beginning in the Inland Empire to the high-desert stop in Victor Valley, north of Victorville, where a 20,000 square foot station will be built on 300 acres southeast of Dale Evans Parkway and I-15 interchange. 

A station in Hesperia will also be built within the median of I-15 and will mainly be used for local rail service for morning southbound and northbound evening weekday trains.

The run over the Cajon Pass could hit 180 mph and take 35 minutes. 

The bullet trail will then shoot through the Mojave desert along a 200 mph, 170-mile stretch to a Las Vegas station.

The project was awarded $3 billion from President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, plus $3.5 billion in private activity bonds from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The remainder of the project cost will be privately funded.

“I’m convinced that the first time that first passenger buys a ticket and sits in a seat on that first high-speed trip on American soil, everything will change,” U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told the newspaper. “The entire country will expect and demand that kind of quality and speed of service.”

Brightline is controlled by Edens, a private-equity billionaire and owner of the Milwaukee Bucks,  who has funneled more than $100 million of his own money into plans for high-speed rail lines linking Las Vegas to Southern California and Orlando to Miami, funded mostly by tax-exempt bonds.

— Dana Bartholomew

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