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Party on a bullet train from the Bay to Vegas

Picture this: You and your besties are packing your bags for Vegas. Imagine no need to head to the airport for a demoralizing cavity search, or to cram into your friend’s Mini Cooper for the seven-hour trek across the desert.

Nope, just relax and party it up by hopping on a high-speed bullet train to Vegas.

Sounds like a dream? Well it may not be too far off  — oh, 10, 20 years or so — if private developers have their way.

Good news from the Obama administration on a $5.5 billion loan in coming weeks could spark developers to begin construction on XpressWest, an $8 billion-plus train line that would connect to California’s high-speed railway near Los Angeles.

The 150-mph party train could whisk visitors from the Bay Area to Sin City in around 4 hours and set you back about $140. Considering direct flights from the Bay Area to Vegas run around $100 each way and take about 1-1/2 hours from gate to gate, the train might not be the most affordable choice for NorCal travelers.

However, the XpressWest train would travel from outside Los Angeles to Vegas for about $45 and take only 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Project COO Andrew Mack told the Merc:

“Consider the train an extension of Las Vegas. We definitely want to create that type of environment where they can sit back and relax.”

XpressWest — previously named DesertXpress — has been eight years in the making with money piling in mostly from Vegas hotel developer Tony Marnell. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. is known to be a political supporter.

Developers hope to eventually extend the high-speed train line to Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Denver.

Private firms have already spent more than $50 million to cut through bureaucratic red tape. Now they must wait for the federal government to approve XpressWest’s $5.5 billion loan application. Project officials claim that would trigger $1.4 billion in private financing.

While President Obama is keen on high-speed rail, the loan XpressWest is applying for is 10 times larger than any other loan issued since the $30 billion rail funding program was created a decade ago.

Despite the funding hurdles, XpressWest officials hope to receive the loan decision later this summer and predict starting work on the initial $6.9 billion stretch from Vegas to Victorville later this year.

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