The California State Transportation Agency has awarded an $8 million grant toward a regional push for a high-speed rail route between Palmdale and the Victor Valley.

The grant to the High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Agency, announced last week, matches $8.5 million in Measure M sales tax funds through Los Angeles County for preliminary engineering and other project development activities for the project.

“This investment from the California State Transportation Agency will enable our Joint Powers Authority to leverage additional local and federal funding to move this project another important step closer to construction,” Los Angeles County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a release announcing the grant award. “It also reflects the state’s recognition of the important role this project fulfills in dramatically improving mobility for millions of county and state residents.”

The proposed 54-mile rail line is intended to provide connection between Brightline West’s high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and the Victor Valley and the planned California High Speed Rail system’s station in Palmdale.

The High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Agency includes Los Angeles County, Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the cities of Palmdale, Lancaster, Adelanto and Victorville.

“The City of Palmdale is delighted with the $8 million grant award from CalSTA to the High Desert Corridor High-Speed Rail Project,” said Palmdale Councilmember Eric Ohlsen, who also serves on the HDC JPA Board of Directors. “Palmdale looks forward to being a major connection hub between the California High-Speed Rail Authority Project coming from Bakersfield and northern California to the Brightline West project coming from the Victor Valley and Las Vegas, Nev.”

The Joint Powers Agency is also working with the Federal Railroad Administration to secure entry into the Federal Corridor Identification and Development Program, which will unlock federal funding for the project.

By connecting Las Vegas to Los Angeles County and beyond, the High Desert Corridor project will serve a growing intercity travel market consisting of over 70 million annual trips by 2035, according to the JPA. This will significantly reduce emissions in the often congested highway corridors that between the two areas.

During construction, the project is estimated to generate more than 61,000 one-year, full-time equivalent construction jobs, according to the JPA.

A contract enabling design work is expected to be awarded late this year.

The JPA is working through both the federal and state environmental processes, including updating the state clearance received in 2016.

The city’s plans for the Palmdale Transportation Center and the surrounding area include the terminus of the High Desert Corridor route.

The corridor was intended as a multi-modal system, including a multi-lane highway with a rail line in the median. The highway portion was dropped by Caltrans in 2019, leaving the rail project intact.

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