High-Speed Rail to Vegas Getting Real

Nevada chooses a Chinese-backed venture to move forward, work could start next year

After hearing presentations on everything from elevated trams to egg-shaped pods to cars that can transform into locomotives, the board of the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority unanimously approved the XpressWest proposal, which could carry trains running 150 mph from Palmdale to Vegas, to advance.

It’s not a surprise that XpressWest was the most realistic proposal to resuscitate much-desired train service (these days, a four-hour drive to Vegas = a pipe dream) between Southern California and Sin City—it’s been around for years, spent $50 million to fine-tune its idea, and is now backed by a deep-pocketed Chinese company that’s built bullet trains in their native land. On top of all that, the Nevada HSR Authority had stringent requirements for what high-speed plan moved forward; basically a clean train that didn’t require pylons for over 200 miles, and the all-electric XpressWest fit the bill.

“We’ve heard some really cool ideas today, but one company has spent a lot of money and a lot of time on its project, and they’re the only one that met all the criteria,” board member Tina Quigley said, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

XpressWest will now serve as the Nevada HSR Authority’s bullet train “franchisee,” and will report in six months on its progress.

XpressWest’s plan is split into two phases; the first will travel from a station in southern Vegas to Victorville, mostly running along the 15. The environmental reports on that route are completed and should be finalized in the spring; work could begin in about a year. The second phase would bring the train to a station in Palmdale, which riders could access via a Metrolink train from Union Station. Eventually, they could get there via California High-Speed Rail, should it come to fruition. XpressWest hopes their technology would be compatible so some trains could run directly from Vegas to Union Station and vice versa.

Trains could run every 20 minutes during peak times and cost about $100 round-trip (that seems like a low-ball number, though). The best part: travel times of under two hours between Palmdale and Vegas.