Vegas High-Speed Rail Line Gets $2.5 Billion In Federal Bonds As Similar Project In California Flounders

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Robert Schmad Contributor
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The Biden administration on Tuesday approved $2.5 billion in federal bonds for a high-speed rail project connecting Las Vegas to southern California after spending billions more on a similar project in California that has made no progress after 15 years.

The $2.5 billion bond approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) builds on a $1 billion bond that the department approved for Brightline West, the company constructing the railway, in 2020 and a $3 billion grant allocated for its project in December 2023, according to a press release. The expanded federal support for the project comes as a federally funded high-speed rail project in California has yet to lay a single mile of track after 15 years.

DOT has expressed optimism about the Brightline West project, which the company plans to run from Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga in San Bernardino County, California. (RELATED: California Spent More Than $600 Million On Environmental Reviews For High-Speed Rail Line That Isn’t Built Yet)

“President Biden’s historic infrastructure package gives us the opportunity to build safe, green, and accessible rail systems that will deliver benefits to the American people for generations to come,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said of the project.

In this aerial image taken on August 26, 2021 the Cedar viaduct stands during construction of a high-speed rail project through the Central Valley in Fresno, California. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Other federally funded high-speed rail projects have floundered, however.

California voted in 2008 to construct the first high-speed railway in the nation, approving a $9 billion bond, News Nation reported. Fifteen years later, the state has laid not a single mile of track as of December 2023, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimates the project will cost between $88 billion and $128 billion to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The Biden administration gave California more than $3 billion in grant funding in December 2023 to support its high-speed rail project.

Some have criticized the federal government for dumping money into a project that has made little progress.

“In no way, shape, or form should the federal government allocate another dollar to California’s inept high speed rail,” former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told CalMatters.

“The California High Speed Rail Authority has missed countless timelines and deceived the public about costs which are exorbitantly higher than originally estimated.”

DOT approved private activity bonds for Brightline West’s Las Vegas project. The bonds are tax-exempt, lowering costs for the project, according to a DOT press release.

A spokesperson for Brightline West directed the Daily Caller News Foundation to comments made by the company’s founder in the DOT’s press release.

“As the first true high-speed rail system in America, Brightline West will serve as the blueprint for connecting cities with fast, eco-friendly passenger rail throughout the country,” Brightline Founder and Chairman Wes Edens said.

“We appreciate the confidence placed in us by DOT and are ready to get to work.”

DOT did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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