Brightline SoCal rail project still on track despite funding and cost issues

Dive brief:

  • Despite a funding problem and rising costs, construction of the Brightline West bullet train between Southern California and Las Vegas is expected to start in the second quarter of this year, according to a letter from railway company to Nevada High-Speed ​​Rail Authority. According to previous estimates, the cost of rail was nearly $ 5 billion, but the most recent estimates have increased to 8 billion dollars.
  • After owner Fortress Investment Group did not sell enough bonds On the December 1, 2020 deadline, Sarah Watterson, president of DesertXpress Enterprises, a Brightline West subsidiary, said the rail company would launch another bond sale this year and provide more equity for the project as the economy will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Despite the failed bond sale, the Brightline project, according to Watterson, made several milestones in the past year, including the execution of the main right-of-way; design and build agreements with Caltrans and Nevada DOT; and a contract with Siemens Mobility for the supply of Velaro trainsets, as well as for the design and construction of signaling, communication and electrification systems.

Dive overview:

Brightline West is the most recent version of what was previously called Virgin Trains USA, which was backed by billionaire investor Richard Branson’s Virgin Group Ltd. It left the project in 2020, and the current rebranding aims to tie the company to the Florida Brightline route between Miami and West Palm Beach.

Brightline West targets passengers who make 50 million trips between Los Angeles and Las Vegas each year.

Brightline West is the most recent route information has the main 169 miles connecting Victor Valley, California and Las Vegas. The rail company will also connect Victor Valley southwest to Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Via a 90-mile line and northwest to Palmdale, Calif., Via a 65-mile line. Palmdale and Rancho Cucamonga are connected to Union Station in Los Angeles.

In the letter to the Nevada authority, Watterson mentioned that Brightline in Florida closed a successful $ 950 million bond sale in December 2020 and said this indicated an interest in intercity passenger rail transportation and ” improving market conditions, ”factors that appear to support Brightline West’s expectations for a successful sale for the Las Vegas line.

In addition to benefiting from the post-pandemic recovery, building the line would also help that recovery if Brightline West’s numbers are correct. The railway company believes that the project will:

  • Generate more than 40,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs;
  • Create an economic impact of $ 9 billion; and
  • Increase tax revenues by $ 1 billion.

Construction Dive has contacted Brightline West for further comment, but has not received a response at press time.


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