Construction on a high-speed rail line connecting Victorville, Calif. to Las Vegas could begin this spring.
Brightline West said in a status update this month the company is “on target” to begin building the $8-billion rail project this spring.
The line would connect Victorville, Calif. to Las Vegas with rapid trains running along the I-15 corridor. Victorville is 85 miles east of Los Angeles and in San Bernardino County. The status update was spelled out in a Jan. 4 letter from Brightline West President Sarah Watterson to the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The project stalled late last year when a proposed $2.4-billion bond sale to finance the early stages of the rail line did not attract investors. Watterson said the coronavirus pandemic was partly to blame.
In the status update, she said that “election uncertainty, the lack of approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, and lack of liquidity in the market did not allow us to price the bonds to provide long-term stability for the company.”
Watterson said there is support this year for a bond allocation, according to the Review-Journal.
However, Terry Reynolds, director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, told the newspaper the state has a limited amount of time to address the bond proposal. He said that decision probably won’t happen until this summer.
Longtime residents of Southern Nevada have heard discussions for decades regarding a high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
When construction on the latest venture was delayed last year, KSNV-TV reporter Tom Hawley said during a broadcast, “Shelving high-speed rail plans is not exactly new here. We’ve been hearing variations going back three-and-a-half decades.”
Hawley hosts a news segment called “Video Vault” on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate. In a segment last month about the Brightline West delay, Hawley showed a December 1985 news clip featuring reporter Donna Cline. As the reporter speaks, viewers see file footage of a high-speed train zipping through empty terrain.
You’re looking at a super-speed train similar to one that as early as 1992 could connect Las Vegas with cities in Southern California,” Cline says.
Hawley then tells viewers the current proposal would be ready to provide rail service from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 2029 “under the most optimistic scenario.”
As Hawley noted, the effort to improve ground transportation between Southern California and Las Vegas has been a long-term goal for the Nevada tourism industry. Three years ago, nearly a fifth of visitors to Las Vegas was from Southern California, according to media reports.
Because of its remote desert location, Las Vegas has relied upon air travel to bring in large numbers of people. The nearest large metropolitan areas, Los Angeles and Phoenix are at least four to five hours or more away by car.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, air travel to and from Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport has declined by millions of passengers.
With air travel in a pandemic-related slump, the visitor volume in Las Vegas has been slow to recover. In response, some hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have shut down part or all of their operations during the slow midweek days.
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