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Miami-based Brightline looks west, acquires Vegas-California route

Brightline is going west.

On Tuesday, the high-speed rail company, currently expanding its South Florida service to Orlando, announced it would take up construction of XpressWest, a long-troubled rail project planned from Las Vegas to Southern California.

“Brightline is changing transportation in our country by connecting heavily trafficked corridors that are too long to drive and too short to fly,” said Wes Edens, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Brightline owner Fortress Investment Group, via a statement. “Our experience in Florida is proving that private-sector investment has a meaningful role to play in developing transportation infrastructure.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Last month, Brightline won approval to sell $1.75 billion worth of tax-exempt bonds to finance its Florida service. Citizen groups along the Treasure Coast have opposed its expansion. The company’s first-quarter results showed the $1.8 billion service was operating at a $28 million loss. Those figures did not include revenues from Miami, which had not yet opened.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Brightline President Patrick Goddard said the company is unwavering in its belief that high-speed rail can work in America.

“Passenger rail is successful in the U.S. and around the world,” he said. “Systems such as Eurostar, Virgin Trains, Italo and Acela are highly successful. Our model is based on city pairs that are ‘too short to fly and too long to drive,’ making passenger rail a viable alternative.”

The XpressWest project was once expected to break ground in 2012 but has been beset by delays and funding shortfalls. In its acquisition announcement Tuesday, Brightline said construction on XpressWest is expected to begin next year, with service slated to kick off in 2022. The company believes it can cut the project’s forecast $7 billion cost through a new design and engineering scheme.

“Brightline has built a proven model for privately funded high-speed rail service in Florida and we are excited to welcome them to Nevada,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement.

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