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Galveston passenger rail back on track

Sorry about the pun, they can be hard to avoid when writing these titles. Anyway, the on-again, off-again Houston to Galveston rail line is apparently on again.

A Houston-to-Galveston passenger rail line postponed indefinitely after the economy hit bottom in 2009 is getting another chance, but it could be a decade or more before the first spike is driven.

The original plan called for a passenger line carrying 1,000 to 2,000 people per day to be in operation as early as this year, but a series of events starting with Hurricane Ike and the stock market crash in 2008 stalled the project.

“The impact of the economic downturn has taken its toll in so many ways,” said Barry Goodman, whose consulting firm, Goodman Corp., is doing the planning. Goodman said the recession affected the rail project more than the storm.

The price tag had risen from an estimated $415 million in 2007 to $650 million, and local governments were unable to provide the 40 to 50 percent contribution typical for such projects, Goodman said.

Enthusiasm remains high for the plan among officials and residents in Galveston County’s 13 cities, so Goodman Corp. is redrawing the plans to accommodate the new financial reality, said John Carrara, senior vice president.

The revamped plan calls for starting more modestly with expanded park-and-ride and express bus services in the Houston-Galveston corridor.

The more measured approach could provide immediate benefits, said Alan Clark, transportation planning director for the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

The council, which coordinates planning for local governments in the region, will consider making the Goodman Corp. plan part of the regional transportation plan, Clark said.

I’m not sure why the story refers to this as “passenger rail”, which sounds like something that tourists would take, and not “commuter rail”, which is sure what it sounds like. The last updates I have on this is a story from 2011 about the project being off track (with a letter to the editor following a few days later disputing some of the points in the story); a 2010 story about the formation of a Galveston County transportation district; and a 2009 story about (what else?) a political dispute over who would do what for this rail line if it ever got off the ground. Who knows what will happen from here or more importantly when it will happen, but I do want to note that we are approaching the ten-year anniversary of the first Galveston rail-related blog post I ever wrote, which of course also prominently features a quote from Barry Goodman. Some things really do never change.

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One Comment

  1. Robert Nagle says:

    I am planning a trip to Galveston and checked out the transit options to go from Houston to Galveston. Via Greyhound there are exactly 2 buses per day from Houston to Galveston and vice versa. Amazing!

    Any kind of transit options would improve the economy of Galveston. Why should it be so hard for people to get to Galveston?