California Las Vegas Train

FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2018 file photo a Brightline train is shown at the station, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A plan to build a high-speed train between Southern California and Las Vegas is back on track now that a private rail company has taken over the project. Brightline announced Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, that it has acquired the rights to XpressWest's 185-mile federally approved rail corridor along Interstate 15. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee,File)

PALMDALE — Work on the first leg of a high-speed rail system that could eventually connect Las Vegas with Palmdale could begin next year.

Virgin Trains USA, formerly Brightline, said they are on track to break ground on the 170 miles of track between Las Vegas and Victorville in mid-2020, with plans to launch operations in late 2023.

Officials reported the benchmarks in a presentation to the Clark County Board of Commissioners in Las Vegas on Oct. 15.

“We’re moving quickly,” Bob O’Malley, Virgin Trains USA vice president of corporate development said.

“We recognize we’re working at pace that is faster than others before.”

The firm is applying the experience and lessons learned from its rail line in south Florida, which has been in operations for 18 months and is expanding.

Beyond Victorville, the rail line’s next stop will be Palmdale, seen as a gateway to the Los Angeles basin, providing a variety of options to connect with downtown Los Angeles, he said.

“That’s a key component to expanding the system,” O’Malley said.

The fully-electric trains will run at speeds of up to 180 mph, along tracks that will run down the median of Interstate 15 between Victorville and the state line, then alongside the highway in Nevada.

The trip between Las Vegas and Victorville will take less than 90 minutes, with trains expected to run every 45 minutes.

The company sought the Board’s support for the project as it seeks Nevada state approval for tax-exempt, private activity bonds to fund the project. It received similar state support in California in September for $300 million, which allows them to raise $1.2 billion.

In Nevada, the company is seeking approval for $200 million, which allows them to raise $800 million in private funds for the Nevada portion of the project.

The Clark County Board is expected to consider a resolution in support of the project at its Nov. 5 meeting.

Virgin Trains USA will meet with the Nevada Department of Business and Industry regarding the tax-exempt bond allocation on Nov. 11.

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