Biden Admin’s $6B Investment in High-Speed Rail Projects


United States: The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it will invest more than $6 billion in two high-speed electric rail routes in the United States’ West, reviving long-stalled projects hailed by supporters as the future of public transportation but bemoaned by critics for their high costs and lengthy construction times.

The Fund Allocation

Senators from California and Nevada announced that the federal government will provide $3 billion for a privately-owned route between Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area, as well as $3.1 billion for the first segment of California’s publicly funded effort to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The funds represent a small portion of the entire cost of constructing the routes.

However, it demonstrates the Biden administration’s commitment to high-speed rail, a means of transportation ubiquitous in Europe and Asia but largely ignored in the United States and its car-obsessed society.

“The federal government is back on building high speed rail in America,” said Brian Kelly, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority that is overseeing the public project. “This award is just a great leap forward.”

| Biden Admin’s $6B Investment in High-Speed Rail Projects |

California voters in 2008, approved 500-mile (805-kilometer) fully electric train that was built to transport individuals between Los Angeles and San Francisco at a whooping speed of 220 mph (354 kph). This project was expected to cost roughly $30 billion and finished by 2020, however, was left unfinished. It is believed that that if the project was running right now, then it would be by far the fastest train service in the country.

From Approval to Reality: A Decade-Long Journey

However, more than a decade later, the cost has risen to more than $100 billion, with state officials identifying just approximately $25 billion in funding. Officials are currently working on a 119-mile (190-kilometer) segment that would connect the cities of Merced, Fresno, and Bakersfield and would not open until at least 2033. These three cities are in California’s Central Valley, which has some of the country’s worst air quality. The $3.1 billion would be used entirely for development on that portion.

According to Kelly, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the additional federal funds will help overcome a $10 billion budget shortfall for the Central Valley route. He stated that the authority will seek further funding from both the federal and state governments in the future. California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom described the investment as a “vote of confidence” that comes “at a critical turning point” for the project.

Funding Challenges

The project’s funding has been on a roller coaster in recent years, with former President Donald Trump attempting to cancel $1 billion in government funds originally provided by the Obama administration. Then, because to worries about the project’s sustainability, state lawmakers, including Democrats, attempted to prevent Gov. Gavin Newsom from releasing more than $4 billion in voter-approved bond money. Both funds have already been made accessible.

The route between Las Vegas and Los Angeles has been discussed for decades, and Nevada U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen told reporters that the project now has all necessary right-of-way and environmental approvals, as well as labor agreements, for construction to begin on the 218-mile (351-kilometer) Interstate 15 corridor.

There was no announcement of a start date for the work. However, Rosen believes that electric trains might be transporting people by the time Los Angeles holds the Summer Olympics in 2028.

“We’re ready to get to work,” Wes Edens, founder and chairman of Brightline in Florida, said in a statement ahead of a Friday event in Las Vegas that might overlap with President Joe Biden’s arrival.

Rosen and US Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, both Democrats, led a bipartisan group in April that urged Biden to commit up to $3.75 billion in federal infrastructure funds toward what they call a public-private partnership.

| Biden Admin’s $6B Investment in High-Speed Rail Projects |

Cutting Edge Speed

Trains traveling at almost 200 mph (322 kph) could reduce a four-hour road drive from a station in Las Vegas to a suburban Los Angeles light rail line in the San Bernardino County city of Rancho Cucamonga in half, according to planners.

They claim the service might help reduce weekend or end-of-holiday travel traffic congestion on I-15 along the Nevada-California border, which can regularly stretch over 15 miles (24 kilometers).

“Connecting Las Vegas and Southern California by high-speed rail will create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs, boost our Southern Nevada tourism economy, and finally help us cut down on I-15 traffic,” Cortez Masto said Tuesday in a statement.

Demands for a high-speed rail route from the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas stretch back at least to 2001, according to Dina Titus, a Democrat who represents the Las Vegas Strip. Over the years, the idea had beginnings, pauses, and many names until being derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brightline Holdings LLC of Florida, which established the only privately-owned and managed intercity passenger train in the United States, is likely to model the Las Vegas line on service it launched on Florida’s east coast in 2014. That line presently connects Miami and Orlando, with trains reaching speeds of up to 125 miles per hour (200 kilometers per hour).