A San Bernardino County transportation agency has entered into an agreement with a private company building a high-speed train from Apple Valley to Las Vegas for a 50-mile spur through the Cajon Pass into Rancho Cucamonga.
Calling it phase two of the project, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority board voted unanimously last Wednesday for the 90-day agreement with a Miami-based company to work out where the southern line would run, including design, station locations and access.
Preliminary plans call for the southern spur to travel along the median of the 15 Freeway and when reaching Foothill Boulevard, jog west to connect with the Metrolink station just west of Milliken Avenue.
“SBCTA is eager to explore innovative transportation solutions that incorporate emerging technologies, reduce the carbon footprint and protect the public interest,” Ray Wolfe, SBCTA’s executive director, said in an emailed response.
DesertXpress Enterprises LLC, a Nevada company doing business as XpressWest, received the OK from Caltrans last Monday to use the 15 Freeway median to run the California portion of the first phase of the project — an electric train connecting the High Desert to Las Vegas — a distance of 170 miles. Construction is scheduled to start at the end of the year with a targeted service opening date in 2023, company officials said.
XPressWest, a Brightline company, says the Vegas train will whisk passengers at speeds of up to 200 mph for an 85-minute ride, a trip that is twice as fast as driving. The cost of a ticket has not been revealed.
The train to Vegas will be privately financed at a cost estimated at $5 billion, said Ben Porritt, spokesman for Brightline. The company is in the process of selling up to $4.2 billion in bonds to private investors and also using some debt, he said.
SBCTA’s agreement to pursue a southerly connection into the San Bernardino Valley does not include cash or financing, the agency reported.
Wolfe called an expansion of the Apple Valley-to-Vegas train an “outside the box” solution to car traffic, gridlock and air pollution. Wolfe said he is eager to work with XpressWest and its privately built and managed high-speed passenger rail to Vegas by getting a second phase built through the Cajon Pass.
Not only would it be the first such ground, non-driving option to Las Vegas from Southern California, but the southern spur would be the first rail option for moving commuters to and from the High Desert and employment centers in the San Bernardino and West valleys.
“I think this is a pretty exciting and incredible project,” said Dennis Michael, Rancho Cucamonga mayor and an SBCTA board member.
Brightline operates the only privately funded intercity rail service, with passenger trains running between Miami and West Palm Beach, the SBCTA reported. The company is expanding the service to Orlando, Porritt said.
Husein Cumber, chief strategy officer for Florida East Coast Industries, the parent company of Xpress-West, told board members he wanted to meet with the SBCTA after hearing about a deal in the works with Elon Musk’s The Boring Co. to build a tunnel from Rancho Cucamonga to transport passengers underground to and from Ontario International Airport.
The SBCTA also is looking at extending a zero- emission train equipped with a fuel cell from the Arrow line being built in Redlands to Rancho Cucamonga and beyond.
“It made sense for us to be part of these conversations,” Cumber said. “We would have one hub in Rancho Cucamonga.” He met with officials from Rancho Cucamonga a few weeks ago, he said.
“We should have everything under one roof: Metrolink, Boring Co., as well as us,” he said.
Porritt said the company will report back to the SBCTA board in about three months.
Source: SB Sun