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Brightline West Breaks Ground on Vegas to SoCal High-Speed Rail

Brightline West will be a 218-mile 186-mile-per-hour rail line from Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga - about 40 miles east of downtown L.A. - expected to open in 2028

U.S., Nevada and California leader hammer ceremonial spikes at yesterday’s Brightline West groundbreaking. Photo via Brightline West

"What a day to be celebrating the future of American infrastructure and to see it taking shape before our eyes," remarked U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at yesterday's groundbreaking for Brightline West's high-speed rail connection between Las Vegas and Southern California.

Buttigieg praised the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that contributed $3 billion to making this project happen, noting that the project spans not just two parties, but two states, and public and private sectors.

Brightline West will be a 218-mile rail line from Vegas to the San Bernardino County city of Rancho Cucamonga, about 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Expected to open in 2028, ~186-mile-per-hour electric trains will run in the middle of the Interstate Highway 15 (I-15).

On a good day, L.A. area drivers spend four hours getting to and from Vegas via Highway 15. At the end of a weekend, with high volumes of traffic returning to Southern California, the I-15 often clogs, adding hours of frustrating delays. Brightline anticipates the trip will take two hours.

Brightline currently operates relatively fast rail in Florida; that system achieves a maximum speed around 130 miles/hour. With peak speeds at nearly 200 miles per hour, Brightline West is anticipated to be the first true high-speed rail system operating in the United States. (True HSR generally applies to systems operating at peak speeds of 250+km/hour, equal to 155+miles/hour.)

There are now two high-speed rail mega-projects under construction that will both get close to, but not quite connect to Los Angeles.

Brightline West map showing Southern California rail lines. Brightline (yellow) will connect to existing Metrolink's six-county southern California commuter rail (green) which connects riders to downtown L.A. Union Station. California High-Speed Rail (blue) is under construction, opening to Bakersfield around 2030

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CAHSRA) is well under construction on more than a hundred miles of true high-speed rail in the state's Central Valley. The initial operating segment - expected to open circa 2030 - will run between Merced and Bakersfield, which is about a hundred miles from downtown Los Angeles.

California High-Speed Rail Authority phase 1 map. Initial high-speed operations (yellow) will be 171 miles between Merced and Bakersfield is anticipated to open 2030-2033. It is part of a planned 776-mile network including service between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The CAHSRA system is planned to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco with trip times under three hours, though the future funding and timeline are not clear.

Brightline West should offer a domestic proof of concept that can spur completion of high-speed rail systems in California and throughout the United States.

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