Texas High Speed Rail on Track, Never Mind the Fights

A new high-speed bullet train is being proposed from Dallas to Houston that would provide lightening service for passengers on the 240-mile journey in about 90 minutes.

AT A GLANCE

Project Details: A plan to build a high-speed train that connects Dallas and Houston would be the first rail of its kind in the United States, with trains traveling up to 205 miles per hour and offering commuters with comfort and high connectivity during their trip.

Key Players: Texas Central Partners, Fluor Enterprises, The Lane Contruction Corp., WSP

Project Cost: $12 billion

Benefits: Travel time between the two cities will be shortened by 2 hours; mitigation of congestion and traffic along Interstate 45.


Texas Central Partners is trying to bring transportation to break through the traditional model of infrastructure funding – the project would be supported entirely by investors, rather than through government funding or tax dollars.

texas high speed rail

According to Texas Central, the estimated cost would be around $12 billion to build tracks, viaducts, power substations and three passenger stations in the two cities and a halfway point, in Brazos Valley, home to Texas A&M University, College Station.

The Lone State is the leading state in economic development projects for the sixth year in a row, according to the Atlanta-based magazine Site Selection, which looks at states with new corporate facilities that bring in the most investments and new jobs annually. Texas has also been ranked number one in the nation for high-tech exports, with Dallas ranked the fastest growing city in the country.

Win-Win

Developers feel that it will be a win-win for the economy and commuters.


“This will bring us closer together and fuel a super economy that rivals any in the world,” said Drayton McLane Jr., the chairman of the board of directors for Texas Central.


Drayton McLane Jr

Drayton McLane Jr.

The typical way commuters get from Dallas and Houston is through Interstate 45. Flights are also relatively quick, but getting to and from the airport tacks on additional time.

The Texas high-speed train would rely on Japan’s Shinkansen system, which operates between Osaka and Tokyo, and other parts of Japan – India is slated to build the system as well. The train is able to achieve speeds over 200 miles per hour.

tokyo rail

Naysayers

The proposal is not without its naysayers. Before the first track is laid down, the organization Texans Against High-Speed Rail, an opposing group, will be up against Texas Central over disputes on eminent domain, and are looking to contest that Texas Central is an official railroad company, and whether under state law, they have eminent domain authority.

And, in March, in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railway Administration’s draft environmental impact statement about the bullet train proposal, the president and CEO of SNCF America, the branch of the French state-rail company, said the proposal was “not what is best for Texans or the state’s rail transportation future,” saying that it ignores potential of servicing other cities in the state and suggesting that the plan was financially unrealistic.

Texas Central shot back saying the SNCF’s comment were “self-serving” and that the railway company was seeking to find a home in Texas for their own trains. “It’s an example of a company trying to skip to the front of the line and not do the due diligence and hard work that Texas Central has done over the last many, many years, with people on the ground here in Texas,” said Texas Central Railway Vice President of External Affairs Travis Kelly.

The Federal Railway Administration has also received feedback from the public in the communities along the proposed route and they will release a final environmental impact statement later in the year.

Moreover, Texas Central says that the project is an example of the need for a new business model for infrastructure projects that depend on the market, given the challenges of funding today.

“Texans have a can-do, pioneering spirit, and a rich history of doing great things. The Texas Bullet Train is the next great thing, providing a map to how the free market can and should play an integral part in addressing America’s enormous infrastructure opportunities, across sectors and across the nation,” Texas Central said in a statement.

Texas-based Fluor Enterprises and Connecticut-based The Lane Construction Corp. have been chosen to assist on the design and construction process. And the company WSP will focus on engineering, cost estimating and scheduling.

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