Montgomery County commissioners have unanimously adopted a strongly worded resolution criticizing any effort to run a high-speed train between Houston and Dallas through the western side of the fast-growing county.
Instead, commissioners believe the right track for such a bullet train to take would be down the Interstate 45 corridor, where road congestion is steadily worsening. The Woodlands Township wrote a letter a few weeks earlier expressing the same sentiment.
“There was support for the I-45 corridor and we thought this was initially where they planned to put it. It was to possibly make stops in Conroe or The Woodlands. The discarding of this route was a real slap in the face,” Montgomery County Judge Alan Sadler said after commissioners met Monday. “There is no upside for the new route that goes through the county’s west side. It will just disrupt a lot of people’s lives in the part of the county with the highest potential for development.”
Commissioner Craig Doyal echoed that sentiment. “I think high-speed rail is a good idea. But with no planned stops here, all this proposed route will do is divide the county.”
One problem with the I-45 corridor is that it has several entrances and exits for food establishments, hotels and other businesses that would have to be navigated, while the utility corridor has none and the BNSF route has only a few, officials said. Also, curves along the I-45 corridor would have to be straightened to accommodate a train speeding down a track at 200 mph, which could prove costly.
In objecting to the BNSF route, county commissioners complained in their resolution that it could force the closure or rerouting of local roads, block access to private properties and increase commuter drive times. Emergency vehicles also could lose critical time if forced to travel longer distances, and such a high-speed train could be hazardous because it requires 8.5 miles to come to a complete stop.
“Listening to the whizzing vibrations every 15 minutes would also be annoying,” the resolution stated.
But possibly the most important issue – though not mentioned in the resolution – is that Montgomery County will gain nothing but inconvenience from this train crossing its territory.
See here and here for the background. Certainly having the high speed rail line pass through the Woodlands would at least allow for the option of a station there that would surely draw a lot of business. The problem is that building something like a high speed rail line through an established and growing area like that is far more complicated, and ultimately expensive, than building it in more out of the way areas. That has its own problems, one of them being that one of the preferred alternate routes also goes through Montgomery County, and the powers that be there are doing what they can to put up obstacles for that. The other preferred route avoids Montgomery altogether, but there are issues with that as well. There are no problem-free solutions, is what I’m saying.
Really, this is another illustration of the fact that the best time to build a major piece of infrastructure is always in the past. Think how much easier it would have been to construct the light rail system Houston approved in 2003 if we had gotten started on it back in 1991, when we were debating a monorail system. We can’t go back in time, but my point is that if we don’t move forward on stuff like this now, it won’t get any easier to do twenty or thirty years down the line. I don’t know what the right answer is, but if the most expedient choice from a political perspective is the I-45 corridor, then the question becomes how to make that financially feasible. Maybe at some point this private enterprise needs to have a public component to it as well. Like I said, I don’t know what the right answer is. I just know that it doesn’t get any easier from here, and if we miss this chance we may never get another one.