Brightline eyes Las Vegas-LA

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Site of future station at Victorville, Calif., adjacent to Interstate 15
Bob Johnston
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Florida’s Brightline announced Tuesday that it intends to compete in the heavily traveled Las Vegas-Los Angeles Basin market by acquiring XpressWest.

That company won the right from the Nevada High Speed Rail Authority in 2015 to build a 220-mile route adjacent to Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Victorville, Calif. A total of 185 miles will be built as a sealed corridor with no at-grade road or pedestrian crossings.

Reflecting the real estate business model Brightline has employed in its Miami-West Palm Beach, Fla., corridor, the company is acquiring 38 acres of land on the Las Vegas Strip for construction of a station and mixed-use development.

A Brightline contact tells Trains News Wire that the company is reviewing the engineering work XpressWest has already completed, but the type of trainsets to be used and specific right-of-way construction options have yet to be determined, saying, “Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and Brightline is planning to begin initial service in 2022.”

In its press release, Brightline says it will, “provide a convenient alternative that will make the trip in less than two hours,” and refers to the operation as “high speed rail.”

The Siemens-built cars and locomotives Brightline currently uses in South Florida and on the planned “Phase 2” extension to Orlando are capable of 125 mph and will run at that speed over a short sealed corridor from Cocoa, Fla., to Orlando International Airport. As long as that velocity can be maintained over the mostly-straight arid Nevada and California landscape, that equipment could be utilized.

However, XpressWest originally announced a partnership in 2015 with a company called China Railway International USA that envisioned 220-mph electrified system, which would extend beyond a planned parking lot at Victorville to Palmdale, Calif., where Metrolink Los Angeles-bound commuter trains call and a future connection with California High Speed Rail Authority’s San Francisco-Los Angeles system is planned. Chinese investors were expected to provide working capital for the project, but the partnership fell apart in 2016 when the parties couldn’t come to an agreement.

Brightline says preliminary planning for additional stations and connectivity, presumably at Palmdale, “is underway,” but provides no details

According to Brightline, 50 million annual trips are made between Las Vegas and Southern California. Since Amtrak’s Desert Wind was discontinued on May 10, 1997, several ventures have proposed tapping the market over the existing Union Pacific-BNSF Railway trackage, but all efforts have failed to advance.

Trains News Wire will follow future developments as they occur.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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