Virgin Trains USA Takes on an Ambitious project: Connecting Las Vegas to Southern California
By Matt Martella
Virgin Trains USA his undertaking a bold new project to connect Las Vegas to Southern California by a high-speed rail line. This project is meant to facilitate travel from Las Vegas to California, and company officials say that the construction of two new train stations will hopefully open up thousands of job opportunities within the area. The cost of the high-speed rail link is proposed to be $4.8 billion.
The Las Vegas train station is currently planned to be built south of the Strip near the South Premium Outlets mall.
Huge New Train Station in Las Vegas
Plans for the first floor of the station would include a self-ticketing, departure lobby, office space, and baggage claim, while the second floor would have retail space, passenger waiting areas, and potentially some outdoor restaurants and bars.
Beside the station would be a seven story-tall parking lot planned to hold 2,680 parking spaces. A 138-foot-long pedestrian walkway would connect the parking lot to the train terminal.
Connecting to Victorville California
The 170-mile rail line from Las Vegas would connect to another planned train station in Victorville, California. The Victorville train station would be built off I-15. Virgin Trains USA hopes the new train station will stimulate the economy in Victorville, whose population now stands at about 20,000.
On potential real-estate development resulting from the Las Vegas to Southern California rail line, SVP of Corporate Affairs for Brightline, Ben Porritt, says: “We have over 100 acres in Las Vegas and we own or control nearly 300 acres in the Victor Valley Region. In Las Vegas, we have shown preliminary site plans for our station but have yet to release any plans related to the rest of the development.”
Virgin Trains USA has made a significant amount of progress in raising money for its ambitious project. California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank) has approved a $3.2 billion tax-exempt, fixed-rate revenue bond to Virgin Trains USA and their affiliate DesertXpress Enterprises LLC to launch their project.
This money will be put to use on the 135 miles of land on the California side of the rail line.
In order to begin construction, Virgin Trains USA must receive a “record of decision” by the Federal Railroad Administration. Despite this obstacle, Virgin Trains has already started gathering materials and equipment for the rail line.
In addition to influencing the economy and creating new jobs along the rail-line, Virgin Trains USA hopes that this project’s success, along with the success of a completed rail line connecting Miami to West Palm Beach, and soon, Orlando, will open up the rest of the United States to the construction of more rail lines throughout the country.
Ready to Ride by 2023
Construction on the project is set to start later in 2020, and Virgin Trains USA plans on having the rail line ready for the public by 2023.
Much of the reason behind building a rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California comes from Virgin Train’s other rail line in Southern Florida. To get a better idea of what the rail line project between Las Vegas and Southern California could look like, it is best to see the work that Virgin Trains USA has already completed.
The Florida Project
The up-and-running train station in South Florida has made transportation in the area much easier, as travelers can now avoid driving on Interstate 95 or the Florida turnpike and instead take a more relaxing train ride.
There is an approximate 35-minute ride from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and a 40-minute ride from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach.
The West Palm Beach train station is located in the best part of the city, close to all the stores, restaurants, and beaches one would desire to visit.
Just blocks away from the train station are the Palm Beach convention center, the Kravis Center of Performing Arts, and the Norton Museum of Art.
Virgin MiamiCentral Station
The Miami station, called Virgin MiamiCentral, has had a huge impact on the city in a short period of time. Located in downtown Miami, Virgin MiamiCentral is close to the Arts and Entertainment District and the American Airlines arena, making it the ideal destination for people who want to see a concert or live sporting event.
Regarding the real-estate development that has occurred in the Florida area, Ben Porritt says: “Brightline has sparked development in and around our stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. In Downtown Miami, there have been over 20 new projects announced or developed since we launched construction on our train station. We’ve seen similar development in West Palm Beach including nearly 1,000 new apartment units within a half-mile of our station.”
Transportation around the city is very convenient from MiamiCentral. Public transport options in the area include Metromover®, Metrorail®, Metrobus®, City of Miami Trolley Systems, future Tri-Rail Downtown Miami Link, and the new Brightline inter-city express train.
Virgin Trains isn’t content with ending their rail line in West Palm Beach. A 170-mile extension to Orlando National airport is in the works along with additional expansion into Boca Raton, Aventura, and Port Miami.
As of now, Virgin Trains USA is focusing most of its efforts on building the Las Vegas rail line and adding to the Florida rail line.
On the topic of future developments, Porritt says “there are at least 10-12 city pairs across the country that fit the business model of too short to fly and too far to drive. Our model is connecting city pairs that are too far to drive and too close to fly.”
It will take a tremendous amount of time and effort to build and update the Florida and Las Vegas projects alone, but Virgin Trains USA seems to be up for the challenge.
In the United Kingdom, Virgin Trains USA has captured a large slice of the trains business across the UK, and they have a proven track record there.
If these two rail lines are successful and the need for more rail lines grows, Virgin Trains USA could be making travel easier all across the United States.
Matt Martella is a writer living in Worcester, Massachusetts and has written for the UMass Daily Collegian and GoNOMAD. He has an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He loves to travel and has lived as a student in Dublin, Ireland and Oxford, England. He looks forward to exploring more parts of the world (specifically in Europe and Asia) and aims to make a profession out of writing about his experiences.