Secretary Buttigieg’s Remarks at Historic Groundbreaking in Las Vegas for the Brightline West High-Speed Rail Project

Secretary Buttigieg and other administration officials joined members of the NV federal delegation, Brightline founder Wes Edens, and Southern Nevada Building Trades’ Vince Saavedra to ceremoniously hammer rail spikes to celebrate the start of construction

Las Vegas, NV – Today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joined elected leaders, union laborers, White House senior advisor Steve Benjamin, and Brightline founder Wes Edens at the groundbreaking of the Brightline West High-Speed Rail Project. The 218-mile high-speed rail line will operate between Las Vegas, Nevada, and Rancho Cucamonga, California, and will be a fully electric, zero-emission system to become one of the greenest forms of transportation in America. Brightline West expects to open in 2028.  

Today’s groundbreaking comes five months after the Biden-Harris Administration announced a $3 billion grant for the project, bringing the total federal support for the high-speed rail line to $6.5 billion in grants and financing. The project is estimated to support 35,000 jobs, including 10,000 direct union construction jobs, and 1,000 permanent jobs once the line is operational. 

Support for high-quality passenger rail is part of President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda, which is delivering world class-infrastructure across the country, expanding access to economic opportunity, and creating good-paying, union jobs. In total, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $66 billion for passenger rail in the U.S.—the largest investment since the creation of Amtrak more than 50 years ago.  

Selected Excerpts: 

“People have been dreaming of high-speed rail in the U.S. for decades. Thanks to the President’s leadership, and that of Members of Congress like those here, as well as our state partners in Nevada and California, the men and women of organized labor, and the terrific work of Brightline West, it’s happening.” 

“And some major benefit will be felt even before that first ride. They actually start today, in the form of the good American jobs we’re creating to deliver this project: 10,000 construction jobs, and then 1,000 permanent jobs to maintain and operate the train line. And I want to recognize Brightline West, President Biden, my Department, Nevada and California organized labor, and the leaders here, for making sure these are not just jobs, they’re good union jobs.” 

“These men and women on stage and the other 10,000 they represent – they’re not just building America’s first high-speed rail, they’re building livelihoods. We know what these jobs mean – they mean presents under the tree, they mean a new car or truck in the driveway, they mean owning a home and educating your kids – they mean peace of mind and pride in what you do.” 

Full Transcript of Remarks: 

What a day. What a day to be celebrating the future of American infrastructure and to see it taking shape before our eyes. Thank you, Vince (Saavedra), and to the Southern Nevada Building Trades. To all of the union workers here and all of the workers they represent who are going to be building America’s future and building a generation of livelihoods. 

I want to thank Governor Lombardo for his leadership and support demonstrating in a project this complex that it has support across state lines, across jurisdictional lines and across party lines, which is what it takes to get big things done. We’re going to be working closely with the Nevada DOT. Thank you for all of your work on this and to everybody who has been part of this across state and local government here and in California. 

I want to recognize the leadership of President Biden and the partnership of leaders in the White House like Mayor Benjamin – always best I think to put a mayor in charge of important things – and of course we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for President Biden and his vision. 

And we have members of the congressional delegations who we very much would not be here without their leadership to be with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen who have had me on speed dial to make sure that this got funded and to make sure everything goes smoothly. 

Likewise, to be with Representative Susie Lee, to be with Representative Dina Titus, to be with Representative Horsford thank you for everything you have done not just to advocate for this project but to make sure this legislation got done. 

Likewise, we have Norma Torres and Pete Aguilar – the original Mayor Pete – who are doing such phenomenal work from the California side. 

I want to dwell on their role for a moment because it is all too easy to just think of the infrastructure law as something that happened and there is no other way this could have been. That’s not true. The obituary of this legislation was written time and time again. But President Biden believed in it. He believed in the bipartisan character of this legislation and with leaders like your delegation leaders who are here with us today it actually became a reality. 

And of course, I want to recognize the extraordinary innovation, creativity and leadership of Wes Edens, Brightline West, and everybody in the private sector who is making this happen. 

This is a very good day for the United States of America. And I’ve imagined this day for a long time. So many Americans I think especially have thought about this traveling abroad.  

Last year, I was in Japan for a meeting of the G7 transportation ministers. We rode their famous Shinkansen bullet train to the small city hosting our meeting. I would never have noticed it, but they were extremely concerned, because for extraordinary and rare reasons, the train was approximately one minute off schedule. So, for somebody who loves trains, sitting in that train was a deeply impressive experience. In fact, briefly sitting up front in the operator’s cabin was what I can only describe as a spiritual experience.  

And like so many Americans I came home thinking about that question people keep asking when they see things like that – why can’t we have those nice things in the United States of America?  Not just famously in Japan but in countries from Spain to Morocco to the Middle East.  

And the reason is simple enough. You get what you pay for. And for decades America did not invest in passenger rail the way other countries did. 

Some voices in Washington even strangely suggested that America was somehow incapable of having world-leading passenger rail. But of course, America can and always should lead the way in any technology and infrastructure. As indeed we did in the development of the railroad itself as a concept, something that helped make America, America in the 19th century. 

By 1860, more than half of the world’s train tracks were in the U.S. And yet, as long as I’ve been alive our country has struggled to maintain our existing railways, let alone build for the future. 

President Biden is changing that. 

Under his leadership for the first time in a long time America is acting with urgency to build and modernize America’s rails.  

And a key moment came on November 15, 2021 – when President Biden signed that Bipartisan Infrastructure package into law. After decades of underinvestment – after a lot of administrations, notably the last one, promising to get it done but just not making it happen – after months of commentators treating infrastructure week as a punchline and denying that there was any way a bipartisan bill like this could pass, President Biden made it happen.  

And it meant a new day for every form of transportation in this country – air, sea, and land. And certainly, for rail.

To get to this point, it took a President who showed perhaps the greatest appreciation for railroads of any President since Lincoln. 

A few weeks ago, a journalist asked me: “Why can’t we have high speed rail? We want high speed rail.”  

I said: “You sound like my boss.”   

But my real answer was: “We can if we choose to.” And now American has decided to. 

So, on behalf of the Biden Administration, it is my great honor to help break ground on what will be the first high-speed rail in American history!    

It’s really happening this time. 

You know whenever I come to Las Vegas it’s a little emotional for me because I was on my way actually to do events with your delegation when I got a phone call that changed my life. And about 24 hours later Chasten and I were holding our newborn twins, son and daughter, in our arms.  

They’re not quite old enough to appreciate much of what I do. This is the first time they seem to have actually been impressed when I told them what I was up to. I hugged them goodbye yesterday and I told them I was on my way to a place called Nevada on behalf of President Biden to help build a train.  

They don’t know what a President is, and I don’t think they quite know what Nevada is, but they know what a train is. And what really is moving to me is knowing that they and their kids will depend on infrastructure like this train that we’re building. 

So, I want to share just a little more about why this matters, and why we chose this project for $3 billion in direct funding, plus the financing out of what was a very competitive process.  

This train will move people at 186 miles an hour between Southern California and Las Vegas in just over 2 hours – which is about half the time that it can sometimes take to drive on that road. Candidly, I have never heard a stretch of interstate described as a parking lot more often than the I-15 corridor if you’re on it at the wrong time.  

An estimated 10 million people will one day ride this line yearly, sitting comfortably on a new train looking out the window at the Angeles National Forest, the Mojave National Preserve and joining a tradition that goes back through human history and prehistory to the First Nations American Indians navigating this important route around the Cajon Pass. 

When this line opens, and Brightline West is working aggressively to meet their ambitious 2028 target, there will be a million fewer cars stuck in traffic. So even if you don’t use it, you’ll be benefiting from the people who do. 

And because the 15 such an important freight route, that reduced congestion will have a material benefit to America’s supply chains. Everyone who lives near the 15 will breathe less pollution into their lungs.  

And everyone across the country will live in a climate with 800 million fewer pounds of carbon pollution annually – it’s a pretty good thing to note this Earth Day.  

Something close to my heart – as a mayor – a lot of towns between here and Southern California are going to see new economic opportunity as a result of this train line too.  

More than that, today answers the question that has been asked too often lately the question of whether America can still build massive forward-looking engineering marvels that make people’s lives better for generations.  

It’s one of the very best examples of America’s infrastructure comeback.  

And this is just the start. I am firmly convinced that once the first customer buys that first ticket – to ride true high-speed rail on American soil, there will be no going back. People will demand and expect this everywhere and leaders will respond, and more high-speed rail lines are coming. Or to put it another way, in this particular case what happens in Vegas should absolutely not be confined to Las Vegas.  

And there’s benefit even before that first ride. Because that that’s what’s starting today in the form of the good American jobs we’re creating – on this project, 10,000 construction jobs and then 1000 permanent jobs to maintain and operate this train line.  

And I want to recognize Brightline West, and the leadership of President Biden and my department, Nevada and California’s organized labor community, and the leaders here and everybody else for making sure these are not just jobs, they are good-paying, union jobs.  

People on this stage and everybody that they represent know what these jobs mean. They mean presents under the tree. They mean a new car or truck in the driveway. They mean owning a home and educating your kids, and the peace of mind and pride in what you do that comes with being part of this. 

This progress is happening all across the country.  

In New Jersey we broke ground on the Portal North Bridge to replace the busiest rail bridge in the Western Hemisphere. In New York we started construction to build new train tunnels under the Hudson River launching what may be the biggest public works project east of the Mississippi in transportation today. Within 15 years we’ll have replaced most of the major rail bridges and tunnels on the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington – America’s busiest rail corridor – that still counts on infrastructure that in some cases dates back to the Civil War era.  

We’re going to make those trips faster and more reliable. 

We’re restoring passenger rail service between Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. 

And we’ve laid the groundwork for a pipeline of new promising, intercity passenger rail projects in the Northwest, Texas, the Midwest and across the country. 

Now even this administration doesn’t view trains as the answer for everyone and everywhere, which is why we’re also making the biggest investments since President Eisenhower to improve our roads and bridges including an awful lot around here in Nevada. 

But more Americans should have the option to choose a train, including a high-speed train. And now they will have that option.  

Just one last reflection I want to offer on what trains do and what they mean. It’s no exaggeration to say that the widespread arrival of trains in America knit this country together. The communication, the accessibility that came with them fueled not just our economy, but also our democracy. 

Maybe that’s why the first passenger trains were viewed skeptically in Europe. When they first showed up in the 1800s, many of the elite despised them because of how they threatened the old order. Someone called the Grand Duke of Hanover was quoted as expressing dismay with trains that he said, “any cobbler or tailor could travel as fast as I.” Now the Duke of Wellington felt trains would, “only encourage the common people to move about needlessly.”  

I don’t know if they still have a Grand Duke of Hanover or a Duke of Wellington, but if they do I want to invite them to the 2028 Olympics and encourage them to take the opportunity to ride on the fastest train in America alongside everyone else, because this train is for everyone. 

We’ve got one of 50,000 projects large and small funded by the Biden infrastructure plan. But few, if any so fully captured, the President’s vision of an America, where we work together to make things easier for people to create good union jobs, to reduce pollution and to leave our kids a country that is stronger and fairer than the one we inherited.  

So, thank you, everyone here. Thank you for helping bring that vision to life because we are making history today. Let’s go build that railroad.  

Thank you. 


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