A bipartisan group in Congress from Nevada and California on Monday called on the Biden administration to fast-track federal funding for a private company to build a high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area.

The six federally elected lawmakers from Nevada and the four members of the California House of Representatives said in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg that they agreed with a proposal from a private company, Brightline West, to spend more than $10 billion to lay railroad tracks. which would typically take passengers along the traffic-congested corridor of Interstate 15.

“This project is a top priority because it will make Southern Nevada more accessible to millions of visitors each year,” said U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, the Nevada Democrat who leads the group. “This means more people spending money at our hotels, restaurants, casinos and small businesses and attending world-class conventions, sporting competitions and special events, which will boost our economy and create more jobs. well paid.”

Brightline West is seeking $3.75 billion in federal funding from the Biden administration-backed federal infrastructure bill. The company and the Southern Nevada Construction Workers Union announced in recent weeks that union labor would be used during construction.

“After more than a decade of working to find a way, Brightline West will be America’s first true high-speed rail system and serve as a model for how we can connect major city pairs that are too short to fly. and too far. . to drive,” said Mike Reininger, chief executive of Florida-based Brightline Holdings LLC.

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The lawmakers’ letter noted the company’s projections of 35,000 construction jobs, 1,000 permanent jobs and the diversion of “millions of car users from the I-15 to a faster, more efficient and zero emissions”.

Amtrak passenger service to Las Vegas ended in 1991 with the disappearance of a train called the Desert Wind. The concept of building a high-speed train across the Mojave Desert dates back to at least 2005 under various names. It has had starts and stops over the years and has gone off the rails during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brightline is the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railroad in the United States. In Florida, sister company Brightline West began splitting Florida’s east coast freight line between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2014 and is building an extension to Orlando. High-speed trains running through urban areas have been criticized for numerous collisions with vehicles at level crossings. Investigators found that none of the deaths were the railroad’s fault, determining that many were suicides or drivers or pedestrians trying to outrun trains.

Other places where high-speed rail has been proposed include the 240-mile (386 kilometer) section from Dallas to Houston in Texas, and a 500-mile (805 kilometer) system connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. Completion of the California line depends on funding and other unknowns.

The Mojave Desert is largely open space, and a trip from Brightline West could cut a four-plus-hour drive in half. Trains carrying 500 passengers at speeds of nearly 200 mph (322 km/h) would link Las Vegas, Victorville, California, and Rancho Cucamonga, a town in San Bernardino County with a passenger station on a suburban streetcar line of Los Angeles Angels.

Senior U.S. Senator from Nevada Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, and the state’s four members of the House of Representatives, including Republican Mark Amodei, signed the letter requesting federal-state partnership funding through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Intercity Railroad Grants program.

Democratic California House members Nanette Barragán and Jimmy Gomez of the Los Angeles area and John Garamendi of the East Bay area signed on, as well as Republican Jay Obernolte, who represents the Victorville and San Bernardino counties area. .

Traffic jams on Interstate 15 often stretch 15 miles (24 kilometers) or more near the Nevada-California line as motorists return to the Los Angeles area after a weekend and vacation.

“This bipartisan Nevada-California delegation is pleased to support the federal resources needed to develop essential transportation access between this busy corridor,” the lawmakers said.

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