Texas looks at high speed rail line

Transportation officials in Texas have launched a new study about the feasibility of connecting South Texas to Oklahoma through high speed rail. The two year, $14 million study will look at the requirements and cost involved in building such a rail line and shows that despite criticism of high speed rail projects, states are moving forward on ways to connect.

As CivSource has reported, federal funds to advance the use of high speed rail and modernize the nations crumbling transportation infrastructure have been met with mixed reactions. Some states with Republican governors sent those federal funds back claiming that the program added to the national deficit and that ridership risk was too high. Ridership risk, the idea that states would be on the hook for transportation costs even when people aren’t using transit systems at a rate high enough to pay for them, has long been cited as a reason for not offering means of public transportation. Recent reports, however, have shown that failure to support public transportation can stunt the mobility of citizens and economic growth.

Many of the current high speed rail plans under consideration are in the Northeast where citizens have historically relied on rail travel to move through the urban corridor running from Boston to Washington DC. Although other states like California and some in the midwest such as Illinois are working through projects of their own to link intra-state urban centers.

The Texas study will examine best possible options for the development of passenger trains that will connect metropolitan areas such as Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio, and compare different types of services such as existing Amtrak routes to a new high-speed rail system. The study will also explore funding options such as the potential for public-private partnerships.

The $14 million study is partially funded through a $5.6 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program. TxDOT is providing a 20 percent match. The $14 million study is partially funded through a $5.6 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program. TxDOT is providing a 20 percent match. If built, the Oklahoma City to South Texas line could provide the foundation for a high-speed or higher performance rail system that would eventually connect all the major metropolitan areas in Texas.

“To truly address congestion, we must look at more than just building and expanding highways,” said John Barton TxDOT deputy executive director & chief engineer. “Passenger rail is a strategic component for the future of Texas transportation.”

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