Groundbreaking for Nevada DOT-Led Brightline Rail Project

Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, headlined a recent groundbreaking event for the Brightline West High-Speed Rail Project; a 218-mile high-speed, all-electric, zero-emission rail line that will operate between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga, California.

[Above photo by USDOT]

The Nevada Department of Transportation received $3 billion in funding from the USDOT’s Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program in December 2023 to help build the Brightline West high speed rail line, which the company expects will open in 2028.

That $3 billion grant to Nevada DOT brings the total federal support for the Brightline West high-speed rail line up to $6.5 billion in grants and financing.

“I want to thank Governor [Joe] 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; that is what it takes to get big things done,” USDOT’s Buttigieg noted in his remarks at the groundbreaking event.

“We’re going to be working closely with the Nevada DOT [and] Brightline West to meet their ambitious 2028 target,” he said. “This train will move people at 186 miles an hour between Southern California and Las Vegas in just over two hours – which is about half the time that it can sometimes take to drive on that road. 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.”

Buttigieg added that, because Interstate 15 such an important freight route, the expected reduction in traffic congestion due to the Brightline West high-speed rail line should have a “material benefit” to America’s supply chains – all while reducing carbon emissions from motor vehicles to the tune of 800 million fewer pounds annually.

Hawaii DOT Activates Autonomous Shuttle Pilot Program

The Hawaii Department of Transportation recently launched a new autonomous all-electric passenger shuttle pilot program that will augment the existing Wiki Wiki shuttle bus service at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

[Above photo by Hawaii DOT]

The 18-month pilot project will test out a new fleet of “Miki” autonomous shuttles – the Hawaiian word for “agile” – along with support services and software; all supplied by Beep, Inc.

Each Miki shuttle can hold 11 passengers, including the shuttle attendant, and can accommodate one wheelchair. The shuttles will operate at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour.

While the Miki shuttles will be driven autonomously, Hawaii DOT said an attendant will be on board at all times to serve as ambassador for the new shuttle pilot project and to educate riders on how Miki operates and the service offered at the airport.

Shuttle attendants are trained on the autonomous shuttle’s safety features and can take over manually at any time by utilizing a controller on board, the agency noted.

Ed Sniffen, Hawaii DOT director, added in a statement that this project seeks to evaluate ways to increase overall efficiency of intra-airport transportation service, with two Miki autonomous buses operating on a “robust service schedule” along the same route as the Wiki Wiki buses between the C and G gates and Terminals 1 and 2.

“We are proud to launch the Miki shuttle service which will provide additional convenience for our airport users,” Sniffen noted. “The autonomous electric vehicles add to our ongoing progress to transition our vehicle fleet to electric vehicles and will help meet the state’s sustainability goals.”

This pilot project is made possible through the state’s infrastructure as a service contract with Sustainability Partners, which Hawaii DOT said enables it and other interested state and county agencies to procure electric vehicles and charging infrastructure on a per-mile cost basis.

This pilot program complements a similar effort Hawaii DOT spearheaded in June 2023 in collaboration with the University of Hawaii at Mānoa; the launch of the school’s first autonomous electric passenger shuttle as part of its Rainbow Shuttle service to transport students and staff around campus.

Environmental News Highlights – April 24, 2024


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How Amazon Became the Largest Private EV Charging Operator in the US -Bloomberg Green

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EPA New England issues three air permits for offshore wind farm projects -EPA (media release)



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Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles—Phase 3 -EPA (Final rule)

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council; Notification of Public Meeting -EPA (Notification for a public meeting)

Withdrawal of the Notice of Intent To Prepare a Joint Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report for the Dredged Material Management Plan Feasibility Study, Los Angeles County, CAArmy Corps of Engineers (Notice of intent; withdrawal)

Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Council -Forest Service (Notice of meeting)