US to award $6.1 billion to Las Vegas, California high-speed rail projects

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department is awarding $3 billion for a $12 billion Las Vegas to Southern California high-speed rail project and $3.07 billion to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The Las Vegas to Los Angeles project aims to finish before the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, while the California high-speed rail authority program aims to ultimately move travelers from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin at speeds above 200 miles per hour in under three hours, with initial service starting as early as 2030.

“This historic high-speed rail project will be a game changer for Nevada’s tourism economy and transportation,” Senator Jacky Rosen, a Nevada Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday. Rosen has pushed for the Las Vegas project, which had sought $3.75 billion.

The 218-mile (350km) “Brightline West” project is expected to have speeds of at least 186 miles per hour, resulting in a proposed trip time of 2 hours and 10 minutes. A formal announcement of the project funded by the $1 trillion 2021 infrastructure law is planned for Friday.

A total of $8.2 billion in rail awards are to be announced on Friday by the White House.

In October, California Governor Gavin Newsom asked president Joe Biden for a new $3 billion federal grant for the state’s planned high-speed rail project to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco that would allow the state to complete an initial 119-mile segment.

California lawmakers, including Representative Nancy Pelosi, said the California High-Speed Rail Authority would receive funding to support construction connecting Merced, Fresno, and Bakersfield. Republicans in Congress want to bar Biden from giving new awards to pay for California high-speed rail.

The full San Francisco to Los Angeles project is estimated to cost $88 billion to $128 billion.

Brightline West estimates it will remove 3 million cars from I-15 annually.

Wes Edens, founder and chairman of Brightline, called the award “a historic moment that will serve as a foundation for a new industry, and a remarkable project that will serve as the blueprint for how we can repeat this model throughout the country.”

Separately, a new passenger rail route between Raleigh, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia, is set to receive a $1 billion grant, Senator Thom Tillis said Tuesday, adding it will better connect North Carolina to Washington.

Congress approved $66 billion for the country’s rail infrastructure, as part of the 2021 $1 trillion infrastructure bill, with Amtrak receiving $22 billion and $36 billion allocated for competitive grants.

Last month, the Transportation Department awarded $3.8 billion to help build a long-delayed new railway tunnel between New York City and New Jersey.

In total, FRA said in November it was awarding $16.4 billion to 25 projects along the Northeast Corridor (NEC).

(This story has been refiled to add the first reference to Joe Biden in paragraph 6)

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Franklin Paul, Aurora Ellis and Gerry Doyle)