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Sep
2015
3

Everything’s Bigger In Texas, Including High-Speed Rail (Hopefully!)

TX HSR

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Plans to connect North Texas by high-speed rail (HSR) continue to move along despite political opposition.  In early August the Regional Transportation Council decided to pay $4.5 million through 2018 to keep planning efforts in place for the portion of the system that would connect Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas.  The second phase of the bullet train would connect Dallas and Houston and be paid for by a company known as Texas Central Partners, which has already raised $75 million in seed money from investors. 

Opposition has not been stiff enough to block the exciting infrastructure development in the legislature.  Supporters believe HSR could be a reality by 2021.  

Answers to the state’s projected population growth are need, supporters says.  The Texas Department of Transportation recently released a report which found that the driving time between Houston and Dallas will increase from 4 to 6 hours by the year 2035.  The state’s population is expected to double by the year 2050.  Widening current roads is one option, but many believe HSR is a better option to alleviate congestion.  

Speaking to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bill Meadows, chairman of the state’s Commission for High-Speed Rail in the Dallas/Fort Worth Region, said:

“High speed rail has the potential to revolutionize the way we travel between the state’s largest metropolitan areas.  With population growth in Dallas-Fort Worth and throughout Texas showing no signs of slowing down, innovation is necessary and will ensure the transportation system continues to provide safe, efficient service to all.”

The Dallas-Fort Worth section of the project is still in the planning stages with no direct route yet determined.  Some officials want to see it along the Interstate 30 right of way, which is already controlled by the Texas Department of Transportation.  Such a move would make it easier to connect to AT&T stadium, the futuristic home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, which has already hosted major events such as the NCAA’s first ever college football championship.  

The Dallas-to-Houston line, on the other hand, relies on private investors.  That leg is expected to cost $10 billion and use no public funds.  It is on course to open in 2021, although no start date for construction has been announced.  Using Japanese technology that would allow trains to travel at 220 mph, travelers would make the trip in 90 minutes at a price comparable to an airline ticket.  Texas Central officials believe the system would carry as many as 12,000 passengers a day.

Last month in a 16-page report, the Federal Railroad Administration gave its blessing for the line to be built on the so-called “utility corridor” which would follow high-voltage power lines for 70 percent of its length. The move would give the rail line easy access to electrical power and reduce issues of right-of-way.

Texas has been labeled as the “ideal market for HSR.”  Yet the fiercely independent citizens of rural Texas have thwarted past attempts at transportation development that crosses their land. The battle will be no less boisterous this time around. For now, the legislature will have to echo the words of a quite famous Texan, and stay the course.

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