SoCal to Las Vegas High-Speed Train Becomes a Reality by Jennifer Durnell

Weekend getaways to Los Angeles are about to become a lot easier for Vegas locals.

A high-speed passenger train connecting Southern California to Las Vegas won $200 million of private activity bonds from The Nevada State Board of Finance earlier this week. Completing the funding needed to make it a reality. 

Locals are skeptical that the project, which has been in developmental limbo for years, will finally come to fruition. Initial plans to develop the train began in 2005, and over the years it has faced funding difficulties, personnel changes, and alterations to original blueprints.

Despite the public’s hesitation, construction is scheduled to begin later this year, and will be completed in 2023. The project is expected to create 30,000 construction jobs and over 1,000 permanent jobs once finalized.

The XpressWest line will be built alongside the I-15 and operate electric trains transporting passengers between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

With speeds up to 200 miles per hour, the ride will take 84 minutes, significantly cutting down on the four-hour drive between LA and Vegas. It is predicted to attract 10 million passengers annually.

It is estimated that the rail system will eliminate over 3,000,000 passenger vehicles from roadways per year reducing carbon emissions by 100,000 tons annually. The economic impact for Nevada will be roughly $2 billion and $325 million in new tax revenue.

“This project is a long time coming to Nevada and I’m pleased to take this step forward to bring this vision to reality and bring additional jobs to our State.” said Nevada Governor, Steve Sisolak.

The project is spearheaded by Wall Street investor and Billionaire Wes Edens. Edens also heads Brightline, the only privately-owned passenger rail currently operating in the United States. The Brightline rail connects Miami to West Palm Beach, and is building an extension to Orlando.

In March, XpressWest was awarded a $1 billion allocation from the Department of Transportation and $600 million from the state of California. With the addition of the $200 million in private activity bonds from Nevada, XpressWest can sell four times the value of the awards to private investors.

XpressWest now has  $4.2 billion of the 170-mile rail line’s total $5 billion construction cost, according to Forbes. 

Private activity bonds are created by the federal government for high-cost infrastructure projects. They are exempt from taxes and do not take public funding. The issuance of these bonds will not impact the state’s ability to finance future projects.

“This plan creates jobs without using taxpayer dollars and without impacting our state’s ability to finance future projects, and will allow a new, convenient mode of transportation between Nevada and California.” said Sisolak.
Edens told Forbes there is a “gigantic opportunity” in the U.S. to create high-speed train links for middle-distance cities that are too close to fly, but too far to drive. Similar to the London-to-Paris Eurostar and other private European trains.