Brightline high speed rail releases environmental report; estimates 12.3M trips annually by 2044

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Brightline West on the Cajon Pass
Photo credit: Brightline West

HESPERIA – Brightline West, an $8 billion high speed rail project connecting Southern California to Las Vegas, released its environmental report on its Cajon Pass railway portion for public comment. A highlight of the document includes expectations of a 12.3 million one-way ridership by 2044. 

The Cajon Pass High Speed Rail Project includes railway stations in Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga with an expected 2023 construction start date. The trip between Rancho Cucamonga and Hesperia would be approximately 35 minutes and would run at speeds of up to 180 mph. The route would then connect to a previously approved 216-mile portion from Apple Valley to Las Vegas in a 90 minute trip. 

The project would be powered by overhead electric catenary within the Interstate 15 (I-15) right-of-way (ROW) for 48 miles and on existing transportation corridors for the last mile into the proposed Rancho Cucamonga station. From this station, riders will also be able to take the Metrolink San Bernardino line to Los Angeles Union Station. 

The initial schedule for train departure is every 45 minutes for a total of 23 daily departures in each direction. 

The report states an anticipated substantial increase in population, housing and employment in San Bernardino County as the cause for a greater demand for transportation facilities and services.

“This demand will result in congestion on roadways if capacity does not outpace the demand. The proposed Hesperia station will provide convenient connections between High Desert communities, the San Bernardino Valley and Los Angeles. The High Desert provides lower cost housing options for Southern California residents, while the Rancho Cucamonga/Ontario area around Ontario International Airport has become an employment center,” said the report.

The railway is expected to capture approximately 14% of the Southern California travel to Las Vegas in its opening year – 2025. This capture rate will increase to 20 percent by Year 11. Induced ridership is expected to steadily increase from 693,937 in Year 1 to 1.4 million by 2035. By 2044, the railway is expected to have 12.3 million one-way trips annually.

The report states that riders between Rancho Cucamonga and Hesperia represent only 6% of the total annual ridership as the “vast majority of riders are expected to continue from Rancho Cucamonga and Hesperia to Las Vegas.”

Other topics covered in the report include the project’s impact on air quality, noise, vibration, floodplains, and biological resources.

The public comment period to review and provide comments on the environmental document began on Friday, October 28, 2022, and will end on Monday, November 28, 2022. Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 28, 2022. All comments received will become part of the public record and be considered by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Two virtual public meetings will be held on the following dates and times to provide the public with opportunities to learn more about the project and how to provide comments. Closed captioning will be available for both meetings.

Brightline public meetings
To view the Brightline West Cajon Pass High-Speed Rail Environmental Assessment visit https://railroads.dot.gov/elibrary/brightline-west-cajon-pass-high-speed-rail-environmental-assessment

To submit a comment visit https://www.regulations.gov/docket/FRA-2022-0090

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