Brightline buys XpressWest rail, plans high-speed SoCal-Vegas line
- Florida-based rail company Brightline announced Tuesday that it has agreed to purchase the XpressWest high-speed rail project, along with the rights to develop a federally approved corridor between Victorville, California, and Las Vegas. According to Brightline, the new line would be only the second privately-funded intercity rail service in the U.S., with the company's Florida line the first.
- Brightline expects to start construction next year on the first phase of the project, a 185-mile rail portion alongside Interstate 15 that will eventually extend to Los Angeles. While initial service is slated for 2022, the company is planning additional stations that will eventually connect with Metrolink (Southern California's commuter rail) and the California High-Speed Rail Authority's bullet train. In addition to rail construction, Brightline also plans to develop an intermodal station and mixed-use development on 38 acres near the Las Vegas Strip.
- The XpressWest line, according to Brightline's announcement, is positioned to capture a portion of the 50 million annual trips made between Las Vegas and Southern California. Several officials also commented that the rail line should bring major economic benefits to the region.
In June of 2016, XpressWest called it quits with its Chinese partner China Railway International after it failed to find a way to overcome the federal government's requirement that high-speed trains be manufactured in the U.S. China Railway was set to provide $100 million for the project, but XpressWest officials said they would "aggressively" pursue other partners, so the company was likely ripe for a deal with Brightline.
Brightline has not announced who the contractor will be for the rail construction nor the stations. In Florida, Suffolk Construction was hired as the general contractor for Brightline's Miami station, and Moss & Associates for its West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations.
Although Brightline plans to connect to the California High Speed Rail Authority's $77 billion bullet train, the XpressWest line will likely be complete at least a decade before the bullet train route from the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles metro region is scheduled to be finished. Delays and budget overruns have plagued the project for years, and by the time it is complete, the price tag could near $100 billion. However, the fate of the bullet train is uncertain because the authority only has secured funding for a portion of the project's first segment in Northern California.
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