Feds Award $3B for CA High-Speed Rail, and $3B for Vegas-to-LA HSR

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This week’s headlines mostly focus on a $3 billion federal grant for Brightline West, one of the largest-ever federal grants for a privately owned transportation project. In case you haven’t heard, Brightline West high-speed rail is planned to extend from Las Vegas to Southern California, just east of Los Angeles.This is great, historic big news for sustainable transportation connecting western states. But don’t lose sight of the arguably even better news that the California High-Speed Rail Authority also got its own, equally substantial chunk of federal funding.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will award CAHSRA nearly $3.1 billion, putting the project on schedule to open its Central Valley “initial operating segment” within the next decade.This is the largest grant CASHRA has received, and after years of opposition from the former administration, congressional Republicans, and even some California state legislators, it is welcome news.In Governor Newsom’s words, “This show of support from the Biden-Harris Administration is a vote of confidence in today’s vision and comes at a critical turning point, providing the project new momentum.”

The federal funding will advance work in the Central Valley, including designing and constructing the Fresno station, Central Valley construction including completing design and right-of-way acquisition between Merced and Bakersfield (~180 miles), and procuring trainsets to begin testing.

Images above: CAHSRA

The $3 billion announced on Tuesday is in addition to other smaller federal funding received this year, including $202 million for safety and grade separation work and $25 million for the Fresno Depot.

Progress on this megaproject continues to move forward, despite skepticism from those who falsely claim that the project was dead because it hasn’t already lined up all funding needed. In the last year, CAHSRA has continued to work on grade separations and environmental clearance, design of tracks and train systems, and has begun lining up operators.

There are 119 miles of the project currently under construction, with more than forty completed structures and ongoing work on another thirty, including 53 miles of guideway. Federal funding will help complete the full 171 miles of double-track electrified rail from Merced to Bakersfield. Updates on construction can be found at the CAHSR website.

The federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act includes about $40 billion for high-speed rail programs throughout the country. More funding announcements are expected this week.

Brightline West’s current planning would extend the route from Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga. Image: Brightline

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