Brightline West Train speeding past traffic

Brightline West gets DOT bond boost for bullet train project


The US Department of Transportation has granted Brightline West a new $2.5 billion private activity bond allocation, adding to a previous $1 billion allotment in 2020. The private activity bonds, in addition to the $3 billion grant awarded to the Nevada Department of Transportation in support of the project in December 2023, all but clears the way for Brightline West to break ground in the immediate future.

Brightline West aims to connect Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga outside of Los Angeles in just over two hours with speeds of up to 200 MPH, or roughly twice as fast as the normal drive time. The 218-mile route would be the first purpose built high-speed rail corridor in the United States, and the first major expansion of electrified intercity rail since Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor electrification was expanded to Boston in 2000.

Brightline West would compete with eight airlines operating dozens of daily flights from Los Angeles International Airport to Las Vegas, in addition to a multitude of other flights from other Los Angeles basin airports.

“Today, the Biden-Harris administration takes the next step to fulfill the promise of high-speed rail in the American West, with $2.5 billion in private activity bond authority to lay tracks, create jobs, and connect American cities,” said US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “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.”

Brightline West is anticipated to open in 2028, five years after the completion of Brightline’s Florida extension north to Orlando.

As this historic project edges ever closer to meeting its funding requirements, other notable rail projects are advancing in the United States.

Acela Gets a Pass

Years behind schedule and eagerly awaited by rail passengers, Amtrak’s Acela replacement finally received a passing grade in required computer modeling and has advanced to the final stages of pre-service testing on the Northeast Corridor.

Avelia Liberty, Amtrak’s Acela replacement manufactured by France-based Alstom, has been beset by a number of high-profile setbacks and delays. Although initial testing on the corridor began in 2020, Alstom was unable to successfully complete the computer modeling required by the Federal Railroad Administration before the final stages of testing could be initiated. The New York Times reports, however, that Alstom was able to complete the modeling on its 14th attempt.

“Alstom and Amtrak have commenced high-speed testing of the new Acela fleet on the Northeast Corridor, allowing Alstom to begin the next step in the safety certification process that leads toward launching revenue service,” Amtrak senior public relations manager Jason Abrams is quoted as saying.

Amtrak’s existing fleet of Acela trainsets has exceeded its expected life by years, resulting in a lackluster passenger experience, low reliability, and schedule reductions as some trains are cannibalized to support the remainder of the fleet. Avelia Liberty improves on the current Acela fleet with modern amenities such as USB charging, enhanced Wi-Fi, and a redesigned cafe car. It will also allow for higher top speeds on some stretches of track.

Additional Business Class amenities include these sleek tray tables, complimentary Wi-Fi, an advanced seat reservation system, an onboard info system providing location, train speed and conductor announcements, and head rests with wings so you don’t fall asleep on your neighbor.

The new Avelia Liberty trainsets will feature enhancements in comfort and technology. Image: Amtrak

Second Avenue Subway Phase 2.5, New York City

Meanwhile, the more than century old dream of a completed Second Avenue Subway in New York City has taken an unexpected turn to the West, as Governor Hochul announced a plan to study a continuation of Phase 2 construction across Manhattan to Broadway, during her 2024 State of the State address.


Phase 2, which is currently designed and funded with shovels nearly in the dirt, is set to extend the Q line north from its Phase 1 terminus at 96th Street north to 125th Street before hooking west to terminate at Lexington Avenue to connect with the busy Lexington Avenue line and Metro-North.

A feasibility study will determine if it would be possible to continue to tunnel across Manhattan as a continuation of Phase 2 rather than launch a separate project at a later date. By combining the projects the State estimates a potential savings of more than $400 million. The extension would extend the Q line across 125th Street to connect with the 2 and 3 trains, A B C and D trains, and the 1 train at Broadway.

Related Articles:

Featured image credited to Brightline West