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First High-Speed Rail Line in US Breaks Ground: Brightline Vegas to LA at 200 mph to Save Thousands in Emissions

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Last week, Dept. of Transportation officials celebrated the groundbreaking of America’s first high-speed rail line between LA and Las Vegas.

The Brightline West will travel at 320 kilometers per hour or around 200 mph, which for American readers is standard for high-speed rail around the world.

Expected to be finished in four years, Brightline is envisioned as being a crucial piece of  tourist infrastructure for the upcoming 2028 Summer Olympics.

Fortress Investment Group has gathered $9 billion in financing for the project, but is being helped with a $3 billion grant from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure funding bill.

“This is a historic project and a proud moment where we break ground on America’s first high-speed rail system and lay the foundation for a new industry,” said Wes Edens, Brightline founder at the groundbreaking ceremony where in place of a ribbon, project leaders pounded miniature nails into miniature railroad track.

“Today is long overdue, but the blueprint we’ve created with Brightline will allow us to repeat this model in other city pairs around the country.”

Brightline is expected to serve 11 million passengers every year running alongside US Interstate 15, which can be hindered by weekend traffic jams. In a typical year, 50 million passenger vehicles make the trip between these two iconic cities, and estimates place the number of total vehicle miles that will be saved at around 700 million.

Fortress Investment claims that 400,000 tonnes of CO2 will be eliminated for every year that Brightline West is in operation.

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Hotel operators, retailers praise eclipse tourism; Public Square not so crowded

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Jody Pettit, general manager of Watertown’s Hilton Garden Inn, said the weekend couldn’t have gone any better with eclipse chasers coming to the north country to view the solar spectacle.

The hotel’s 136 rooms were booked by tourists from all over the country to view Monday afternoon’s total eclipse of the sun.

“It was an economic boon for us, definitely,” she said.

Corey C. Fram, director of the Thousands Islands International Tourism Council, heard positive remarks from all kinds of tourism operators about visitors coming to the north country.

Eclipse chasers were so impressed with the region that they asked about what it’s like during the summer. He expects some of those folks will come back.

Visitors came from Long Island, New York City, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the Mid-Atlantic states and as far away as New Mexico and Oregon.

The north country got “a bump” in tourism from what would have happened this time of the year, Fram said.

Many were eclipse veterans who attended the celestial events in 2017 and earlier, he said.

Welcoming them at the North Country Welcome Center in Alexandria Bay, he talked to some visitors who told them that they were headed to places like Rochester and Buffalo.

But with the better weather here and concern for traffic, they decided to make their eclipse memories in Northern New York.

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Summer tourism wrapping up with season ‘back on track’ from pandemic

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With the busy summer tourism season winding down, businesses and tourist attraction operators are optimistic that the local industry is back to normal and that the COVID-19 pandemic is finally in the rearview mirror.

An influx of travelers is expected for the last big weekend of the summer with people having three days off for Labor Day and kids not going back to school until next week.

The Blues in the Bay annual music festival is expected to draw crowds to wrap up the summer.

Blues bands will perform Friday night to Monday afternoon in Alexandria Bay.

The Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Double Barrel Blues Band, performing from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, host the festival. A craft fair will also be held Saturday and Sunday in the pavilion at Scenic View Park.

Mary Compeau, chamber president, is looking forward to the 21st blues festival with a headlining act of Miller and the Other Sinners, a popular Buffalo-based band.

“We should expect a lot of Canadians after two years of the lockdown,” she said.

The leisure and recreation sector of the tourism industry bounced back last summer, said Corey C. Fram, director of the Thousands Islands International Tourism Council.

And this summer the local hotel industry has rebounded, Mr. Fram said. In 2021, area hotels still were impacted by the effects of the pandemic.

But he’s heard that hotels in and around Watertown all are having big years, with business picking up for weddings, corporate meetings and small business gatherings.

“We’re doing well,” said Jody Pettit, general manager for Watertown’s Hilton Garden Inn, 1290 Arsenal St. “It’s been a busy summer.”

In July, the hotel had an occupancy rate of more than 80% and in August, it hit 86%. Weekends were fully booked, she said.

“Let’s hope it’s a trend that happens for years to come,” she said.

To help travelers look for a room, Hilton Garden Inn employees have had to call Syracuse and Ogdensburg because the region’s hospitality industry was completely sold out, she said.

Business meetings have returned, she said. Bus coaches full of travelers are also back. There were less Zoom meetings and more in-person gatherings and a trend of government entities using the Hilton Garden Inn’s amenities also increased.

The Holiday Inn Express next door also experienced that kind of success, she said.

During the height of the pandemic, the wedding market basically dried up, with couples initially inviting just 20 guests and then maybe 50 people later on. But big weddings of 200 are back; guests are no longer afraid of traveling, she said. Three weddings are booked for Labor Day weekend alone.

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