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Source : California High Speed Rail Authority
April 19, 2021
Author : Amy Chan and Darrell Jackson
As we have previously reported, the White House’s infrastructure plan calls on Congress to invest $80 billion in funding for Amtrak.
In addition to helping to fund repairs, modernization, and improvements, that would still leave a hefty chunk of cash for new connections.
Transportation planners see it as a potential opportunity to fund rail service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. There are two options on the table including ones by Amtrak and Brightline West, which has planned a high-speed project whisking passengers between the regions at 200 mph.
In a statement on the Biden Administration’s proposal, Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said they have a “bold vision to bring energy-efficient, world-class intercity rail service to up to 160 new communities across the nation, as we also invest in our fleet and stations across the U.S. With this federal investment, Amtrak will create jobs and improve equity across cities, regions, and the entire country – and we are ready to deliver.”
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, “Regional Transportation Commission CEO MJ Maynard endorsed the possibility of adding passenger rail service to Las Vegas.”
He told the outlet ““Approximately 47,000 vehicles on average are counted daily on Interstate 15 at the stateline.”
He added: “An Amtrak route from Los Angeles to Las Vegas will provide another option for visitors to travel to Las Vegas, helping to alleviate congestion, improve our air quality and significantly enhance the overall visitor experience.”
Amtrak stopped service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 1997. Today, it can take more than five hours to get to LA from Vegas on a Sunday evening, when people may be returning from a weekend adventure.
Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft noted that on Sunday afternoons and after holidays, 17-mile backups can occur on the way to Los Angeles.
However not everybody thinks rail service between the two cities is a good investment. Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow focusing on transportation at the Libertarian CATO Institute noted that bus lines carry passengers between the cities every half hour for as little as $20, and the trip takes “as little as five hours and 10 minutes” according to the Associated Press.
“Eight different airlines offer Los Angeles-Las Vegas service with 70- to 80-minute flights roughly every half-hour at fares that also start at, believe it or not, $20,” O'Toole said. “Where is Amtrak going to fit into this market?”
Brightline West’s project, which will likely employ subcontractors, appears to be further along in the process than anything planned by Amtrak. Construction was set to begin last year but the company delayed it, saying that market instability because of the coronavirus pandemic was getting in the way. The company had been planning a $2.4 billion bond sale to help finance its tracks and stations. In total the project is valued at $8 billion. The company says construction may start this Spring.
While it remains to be seen what will happen, the infrastructure plan, if passed, will surely reconnect many cities in the United States. As President Biden recently noted, the United States currently ranks 13th in the world in terms of infrastructure quality.