I mean, it is a good idea, even if the obstacles seem to be impossible.
San Antonio and Austin, two of the fastest-growing U.S. cities, sit just 80 miles apart. That’s too close for regular flights and just far enough for a drive up Interstate 35 to be a real pain in the ass.
Among public transportation advocates, the distance between the two Texas cities is considered a sweet spot where reliable rail service isn’t just feasible but necessary.
With President Joe Biden’s signature “Build Back Better” bill allocating nearly $20 billion for rail transit, grassroots organizations — including San Antonians for Rail Transit and RESTART Lone Star Rail District — are popping up, pumping out petitions and grabbing the attention of local politicians.
“We are coalition-building right now, and our goal is to get different advocacy groups, nonprofits and even things like chambers of commerce to get on board and say, ‘Yes, we would benefit from a rail link between Austin and San Antonio,'” RESTART founder Clay Anderson said.
Indeed, a thesis published by one of Anderson’s former colleagues at Columbia University argues that a rail link connecting Austin and San Antonio would grab significant enough ridership to justify its expense.
However, the region has been down this road before. Business leaders spent decades talking about the idea, and the Lone Star Rail District, established to create such a line, crashed and burned in 2016 with little to show for the millions pumped into the entity.
Again, it makes sense! Austin and San Antonio are close together. I-35 is a parking lot. The entire region is booming, with New Braunfels and San Marcos becoming regional powerhouses. There’s already a set of tracks! All that’s been missing is leadership, funding, vision, and consensus. No biggie.
Keep the dream alive, I say. It’s a good idea, and people will buy into it if they believe it’s an actual option. Maybe someday, with another federal infrastructure bill and a state government that wants to do something other than widen highways, it could happen. Hell, as long as we’re dreaming, we could extend that line farther south, too. It could happen, you never know. I wish them all well.