The Biden administration has promised to allocate $6 billion towards the development of two high-speed electric rail routes in the western United States.

The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it will provide over $6 billion in funding for two high-speed electric rail projects in the Western United States. This decision has revitalized these projects, which have been delayed for a long time. Supporters see them as the future of public transportation, but critics have criticized their expensive costs and lengthy construction timelines.

Senators representing California and Nevada announced that the U.S. government will allocate $3 billion towards a proposed privately-owned transportation route connecting Las Vegas and the Los Angeles region. An additional $3.1 billion will also be provided for the first stage of California’s publicly-funded project, which aims to ultimately connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The amount allocated is only a portion of the overall expenses for constructing the routes. However, it demonstrates the Biden administration’s dedication to implementing high-speed rail, a commonly used form of transportation in Europe and Asia, but neglected in the U.S. due to its car-centric society.

Brian Kelly, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, announced that the federal government is resuming the construction of high-speed rail in the United States. He stated that this development is a significant step towards progress for the project.

In 2008, voters in California approved a project covering a distance of 500 miles (805 kilometers). This project aimed to transport passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours. The train would be fully electric and capable of reaching speeds of up to 220 miles per hour (354 kilometers per hour). Initially, the cost of the project was estimated to be around $30 billion, with plans for it to be operational by 2020. If it were in operation currently, it would be the fastest train service in the country by a significant margin.

However, after over ten years, the cost has significantly increased to over $100 billion, with state officials having only identified about $25 billion in funding. Currently, the focus is on a 119-mile (190-kilometer) section that would link Merced, Fresno, and Bakersfield, with a projected opening date of 2033. These three cities are located in California’s Central Valley, known for having some of the most polluted air in the nation. The allocated $3.1 billion will be solely used for construction on this portion.

Kelly, the chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, announced that the recent infusion of federal funds will aid in filling a $10 billion financial deficit for the Central Valley route. He also stated that the authority will continue to seek additional funding from both the federal and state levels in the future. Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat from California, praised the funding as a sign of support and emphasized its importance during this crucial stage of the project.

The project’s funding has been unstable in recent years. Former President Donald Trump attempted to take back $1 billion in federal funds initially granted by the Obama administration. Later, state lawmakers, including Democrats, attempted to prevent Governor Gavin Newsom from releasing over $4 billion in bond money approved by voters due to concerns about the project’s feasibility. However, both sources of funding are now available.

The stretch connecting Las Vegas and Los Angeles has been a topic of discussion for many years. According to Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen, all necessary authorizations for land use and environmental impact have been obtained, as well as labor contracts, allowing construction to begin on 218 miles (351 kilometers) of the Interstate 15 route.

A specific start date has not been revealed. However, Rosen stated that trains powered by electricity could potentially transport passengers by the year 2028 when Los Angeles is scheduled to host the Summer Olympics.

“I am excited to start working,” stated Wes Edens, the founder and chairman of Brightline, a Florida-based company. This statement was made in anticipation of the Friday event in Las Vegas, which may possibly align with a visit from President Joe Biden.

Rosen and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, both members of the Democratic party, were at the forefront of a bipartisan coalition that included all of Nevada’s elected federal officials and four representatives from California. In April, they appealed to President Biden to allocate up to $3.75 billion in federal infrastructure funds for a public-private partnership.

According to planners, trains traveling at a speed of 200 mph (322 kph) could potentially reduce a four-hour car trip on the freeway in half. The trip would begin at a station in Las Vegas and end at a suburban Los Angeles light rail line in the city of Rancho Cucamonga in San Bernardino County.

The service is believed to assist in reducing weekend and holiday travel congestion on I-15 near the Nevada-California border, which can often span 15 miles (24 kilometers).

“According to Cortez Masto, the establishment of a high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Southern California will generate numerous well-paying union jobs, enhance the tourism industry in Southern Nevada, and ultimately reduce congestion on I-15.”

According to U.S. Representative Dina Titus, a Democrat who represents the Las Vegas Strip, there have been requests for a fast train that would transport tourists through the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas since at least 2001. The idea has gone through multiple iterations and delays over the years, but was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brightline Holdings LLC, located in Florida, constructed the sole privately-owned and operated intercity passenger railway in the United States. The company plans to replicate the Las Vegas line after the successful launch of a similar service on Florida’s east coast in 2014. This route currently connects Miami and Orlando, with trains reaching speeds of up to 125 mph (200 kph).


Reporter Ritter provided coverage from Las Vegas. Journalist Kathleen Ronayne of the Associated Press also contributed to the report.