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Brightline West’s Modified Alignment Approval Brings High-Speed Rail Project Closer to Reality

Victor Valley, California (VVNG.com) – The dream of a high-speed train running through Victor Valley is one step closer to fruition as the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has granted authorization for a modified alignment of the Brightline West high-speed rail project. This ambitious $12.5 billion project aims to connect Southern California and Las Vegas, providing a faster and more efficient travel option for commuters and tourists alike.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently approved the request by DesertXpress Enterprises, LLC to reopen and authorize the construction and operation of a modified alignment for the Brightline West project. The modifications aim to enhance the rail line’s suitability for high-speed passenger rail service between Victorville, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

(This rendering depicts proposed Brightline West Rancho Cucamonga train station. -Brightline)

Both the FRA and the STB’s Office of Environmental Analysis conducted a thorough assessment of the modified route, taking into consideration environmental and historic factors. After careful evaluation, it was concluded that the potential impacts resulting from the project modifications had been adequately assessed, rendering a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) unnecessary.

The decision to grant the petition for exemption and authorize the modified alignment was based on the FRA’s 2020 and 2023 Reevaluations, along with the Environmental Memorandum prepared by the Office of Environmental Analysis. The STB will enforce the revised mitigation measures recommended by the FRA, ensuring the project adheres to the highest environmental standards. Furthermore, a Programmatic Agreement (PA) outlining compliance terms with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act was executed on August 15, 2023.

Las Vegas Station

The modified alignment of the high-speed rail project brings numerous benefits to the region. By diverting traffic from the congested I-15 freeway, the project will effectively reduce congestion and lower emissions, providing a more sustainable and efficient travel option between Southern California and Las Vegas. Furthermore, this major infrastructure project is expected to fuel economic activity, creating job opportunities and generating significant tax revenue for the local communities.

The decisions made by the FRA and the STB mark a crucial milestone in the progress of the Brightline West high-speed rail project. The combination of transportation merits, environmental considerations, and extensive analysis during the review process reaffirms the importance of this high-speed rail option and highlights its potential to bring immense benefits to both the traveling public and the environment.

In a separate development, DesertXpress also received authorization to construct and operate the RC Line, a high-speed passenger rail line between Victor Valley and Rancho Cucamonga in Southern California. This extension further strengthens the Southern California commuter rail network, providing additional transportation options for the residents of the region.

Brightline West

The release date for this groundbreaking project has not yet been announced. However, the authorization of the modified alignment is a significant step towards making the Brightline West high-speed rail project a reality. Interested individuals can find more comprehensive details, including the complete decision and related documents, on the FRA’s website.

Apple Valley Town Council Member Curt Emick recently shared his positive experience on the new Brightline rail service in Florida. Emick expressed his delight with the luxurious first-class experience, praising the comfortable seats and attentive staff. While the ticket prices for the Victor Valley section are yet to be announced, Emick highlighted the exceptional quality of service offered by Brightline, suggesting a promising experience for future passengers.

Looking ahead, federal funding is expected within a week to determine the best course for the Cajon Pass portion and the stretch from Victor Valley to Las Vegas. The decision will play a pivotal role in determining whether the project will be executed in sections or as a whole. Excitement builds as the Brightline West high-speed rail project moves closer to being realized, offering the potential for transformative transportation and economic growth in the region.

Below is a list of some of the modifications:

Segment 1 Alignment (Apple Valley to Lenwood)

The Project modifications involve relocating the rail alignment between the Victor Valley Station and Sidewinder Road from east side of the I-15 freeway to the median. As such, the entirety of the Segment 1 rail alignment is now within the I-15 freeway median, which would result in reduced impacts and increase the efficiency of train operations. This design change is also favorable with Caltrans and FHWA as it would improve constructability of potential future I-15 freeway improvements in either the northbound or southbound directions. Additionally, the Segment 1 rail alignment would be extended less than one mile south of the Victor Valley Station to access a maintenance of way track that will be constructed to move equipment from the median rail mainline to the maintenance of way facility. Construction of a median-running rail alignment in this area, south of the Dale Evans Parkway intersection, would require realignment of the existing I-15 northbound travel lanes approximately 50 feet east, and reconstruction of the Dale Evans Parkway interchange including the overpass.10 This is discussed further under the Victor Valley Station description below. Additionally, the I-15 northbound travel lanes would be elevated approximately 25 feet south of the interchange to allow the maintenance of way track to pass from the median to the maintenance of way facility. All roadway work would occur within existing Caltrans/NDOT ROW.

SEGMENT 5 ALIGNMENT (PRIMM TO SLOAN ROAD)

Project modifications would relocate the rail alignment, between Primm and north of Goodsprings Road near Jean, from the east side of the I-15 freeway to the freeway median. As such, the entirety of the Segment 5 rail alignment is now located within the I-15 freeway median, which would result in reduced impacts, increase the safety and efficiency of train operations, and improve constructability for future I-15 widening in this portion of the alignment. Additionally, the previously considered Braid Structures near Primm and the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) crossing are no longer needed and have been removed.

VICTOR VALLEY STATION (PREVIOUSLY REFERRED TO AS DALE EVANS STATION)

The Project design evaluated in September 2020 considered collocating an operations, maintenance, and storage facility (OMSF) with the Victor Valley Station, with a permanent footprint of approximately 300 acres. As discussed below, the current Project modifications include a relocation of the Vehicle Maintenance Facility (VMF) to a site on the west side of I-15 in Sloan. The Victor Valley Station permanent footprint would remain unchanged. As noted above, under Segment 1, the Project Modifications include relocating the rail alignment into the median of the I-15 freeway. To accommodate this new rail alignment, the Victor Valley Station layout has been revised to include the passenger boarding and alighting platforms in the median of the I-15 freeway. In order to provide the necessary footprint and access for these platforms, the existing I-15 northbound lanes would be raised and moved east within the Caltrans ROW south of the Dale Evans Parkway interchange. Passengers would access station platforms using a walkway underneath the relocated I-15 freeway northbound lanes

HIGHWAY RAMP REALIGNMENTS/MODIFICATIONS

The Project design evaluated in September 2020 included realignment of portions of approximately 17 existing freeway on and off- ramps to accommodate the rail line within the I-15 freeway ROW. The current Project modifications include extending these on and off ramp realignments and ramp modifications and changing the location where these ramp realignment/reconstructions transition to the existing roadway/pavement. There are locations where these proposed freeway ramp modifications occur (from south to north):The I-15 southbound ramps at Dale Evans Parkway, The I-15 northbound ramps at Main Street in Barstow, The I-15 northbound ramps and southbound ramps at East Primm Boulevard, The I-15 southbound ramps at Goodsprings Road, and The I-15 southbound ramps at Sloan Road. 

These modifications would be located primarily on previously evaluated Project footprint within existing Caltrans/NDOT, and local ROW along the I-15 freeway. These modifications are the result of coordination with Caltrans and NDOT on final design details, in order to update the modified median-running alignment to adhere to current safety design standards.

CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL (CHP) EMERGENCY CROSSOVERS

The Project design evaluated in September 2020 included eight emergency crossovers along the alignment in California. The current Project modifications include two new emergency crossovers at Zzyzx Road and Halloran Springs. Additionally, five previously evaluated emergency crossovers in Segment 3 would be relocated. These are located near Coyote Lake Road, Basin Road, Baker, and both north and south of Halloran Springs. Emergency crossovers would be located mainly on previously evaluated Project footprint within the existing Caltrans ROW. In total, the modified Project would include 10 emergency crossovers in California, located in Segment 3 between Yermo and Mountain Pass, and one emergency crossover in Nevada approximately 1.5-miles south of Sloan.

ROADWORK

The Project design evaluated in September 2020 included roadwork at local interchanges and along the I-15 freeway at various locations. The current Project modifications include:  Realigning the I-15 freeway northbound lane approximately 50 feet east and raising the lane approximately 25 feet, to accommodate the passenger platforms in the I-15 median, tail track for train storage, a pedestrian underpass for access to/from the platforms, and a maintenance of way access track for trains. These roadwork improvements would occur along a 60-foot portion of the I-15 freeway northbound lane adjacent to the Victor Valley Station. Additional roadwork at the Dale Evans Parkway interchange accessing the I-15 freeway southbound ramps. I-15 freeway median widening at Segment 5 to accommodate the modified median- running alignment. Raising of I-15 southbound lanes just south of the Sloan Road interchange to allow for tracks to exit the I-15 median under the southbound lanes and into the Sloan VMF site. 

The Project modifications also include small, on- road lane realignments along the I-15 freeway at Segment 6, near Silverado Ranch Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road.

CEMEX FACILITY AND RAIL CONNECTION

A new connection to the existing Cemex industrial rail track is proposed on the north side of Apple Valley, CA near the proposed Victor Valley Station. The connection would consist of a turnout off the existing Cemex track and approximately 2 miles of new track along the east side of I-15 freeway heading north, all within the Caltrans ROW limit. This connection would allow rail transportation of construction materials such as track ballast to the Project area. This reduces the need for trucking construction materials to the Project area.

SLOAN VEHICLE MAINTENANCE FACILITY (VMF)

The Project design evaluated in the DesertXpress EIS included an OMSF in close proximity to the original Victorville Station west of the I-15 freeway and included facilities for maintaining and storing trains. Project modifications evaluated in 2020 included relocating the Victorville Station to the south side of the I-15 freeway at Dale Evans Parkway in Apple Valley. At that time, it was proposed the OMSF would be collocated with the Victorville Station, and a separate location for vehicle maintenance and storage had not been identified. The current Project modifications include locating the vehicle maintenance and storage activities at a site located in Segment 6 west of and within 1.5 miles of the I-15 freeway, and south of Sloan Road; the Victor Valley Station permanent footprint would remain unchanged. An additional freight track corridor will be constructed to connect the VMF to the adjacent UPRR. Brightline West have filed a connection request and are coordinating with UPRR regarding the connection design and operational concepts. UPRR have granted preliminary approval of this rail connection, which would be subject to additional design development. The Sloan VMF and adjacent UPRR connection would require 246 acres of permanent footprint and 105 acres of temporary footprint,6 and includes: Storage and staging tracks and overhead catenary system from which trains would be mobilized for daily operations. 

And Equipment and operations associated with the Sloan VMF, including but not limited to a train car wash station, a train performance monitoring station, an Operations Control Center, a power substation and distribution lines, utility connections, circulation system, site control, fencing, and parking.
The Sloan VMF will be a permanent workplace for approximately 100 employees related to either the maintenance of the Brightline West train fleet or performing other functions such as driving the trains. These facilities would be located on land under BLM jurisdiction and would therefore require a ROW grant lease from BLM. 

the project The Sloan VMF facility footprint includes 105 acres of temporary footprint required for constructing the Sloan VMF and UPRR Connection.


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