The idea of high-speed rail is being pushed again in a big way in Texas, and backers hope to have $12 billion to $18 billion high-speed trains running by 2020. This time, they say they have taken care to ensure the idea won’t fall flat the way a bullet-train push did some 15 years ago.
“In the past, high-speed rail was not completed in Texas primarily because it was a top-down model driven by lobbyists out of Austin,” former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, chairman of the nonprofit Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corp., told lawmakers at a Wednesday transportation briefing.
This time, he said backers from the consortium — which includes elected leaders, cities, counties and two airlines among others — reached out to past opponents to try to solve their concerns. Among them: Southwest Airlines, which fought the last high-speed rail project as a potential competitor. Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said the airline is neutral on this proposal.
The high-speed trains — with an average speed of 200 mph — would run to airports, allowing rail to work in conjunction with airlines by ferrying in passengers catching longer flights.
The rail would run along the so-called “Texas T-Bone” — from Dallas-Fort Worth through Austin to San Antonio, and branching off in Temple to Houston. More than 70 percent of Texans live in the area that would be served.
Lawmakers and those pushing the project said it’s crucial to come up with alternative transportation since the state population is expected to reach 40 million to 50 million by 2040.
You know I love me some trains, and I’ll be happy to see this come about, if it really is possible. I don’t think I’d prioritize this kind of rail construction over commuter or light rail in urban areas, and even if I did prioritize this I’d be sure to continue pushing for urban rail transit so as to take full advantage of the network effect. But I’m still happy to see this sort of thing on the drawing board, and I hope it gains traction.
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