The FRA releases its alignment analysis for the high speed rail line

There will be no downtown Houston station, that much is for sure.

The area around U.S. 290 and Loop 610, anchored by Northwest Mall, is likely to be the end of the line for a proposed Houston-to-Dallas high speed passenger train.

The Federal Railroad Administration has eliminated from consideration both of the paths that would have carried the trains to Houston’s central business district. The agency is overseeing environmental approvals for the multi-billion-dollar line proposed by Texas Central Partners.

The decision essentially gives Texas Central “our target landing zone,” CEO Tim Keith said, although the company still must procure numerous federal approvals, hold public meetings, raise money and acquire land before construction could begin.


Keith said the decision not to bring the line downtown keeps the project within its $10 billion to $12 billion cost estimate.

“Serving downtown Houston directly would require significant community impact and significant cost,” Keith said.

Federal officials eliminated options for a downtown connection because the each of the two proposed paths had numerous areas of concern. Both would have resulted in environmentally-significant damage to the Heights Boulevard Esplanade – part of a national historic district – and Cottage Grove Park west of T.C. Jester.


A decision about where the line would end changes many of the conversations with local officials, Keith said.

“We’re focusing on getting passengers into the (central business district) and allowing us to engage in those discussions with the various entities we can partner with,” Keith said.

The discussions will likely include the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which is planning some projects around Loop 610 and U.S. 290. Metro board member Jim Robinson said Metro officials have suggested the private high-speed rail firm help to pay for a Metro light rail extension to the area.

“They could extend light rail for a fraction of (the high-speed rail cost) and that would certainly better serve their business model,” Robinson said. “I think we should absolutely partner with them.”

Keith said no conversations about Texas Central funding other improvements have taken place.

“We are going to work hard to get something to maximize connectivity,” he said.

You can see a copy of the FRA report here; it’s not exactly light reading, but go for it. The Dallas end of the line is still a work in progress, but the list is short. The idea of HSR-to-light-rail has come up before, though apparently not in a way that Texas Central will officially comment on just yet. I think that would be a win all around, and would add connectivity to the Uptown BRT line, assuming it doesn’t get derailed. It’s mostly a question of how to make the finances work. I do hope Metro pursues this; since everything comes down to the Mayoral runoff these days, I’d be more confident about a Metro board appointed by Sylvester Turner taking that on than I would with a Bill King board. Be that as it may, this doesn’t get real till construction starts, in 2017 if all goes as planned. There’s still time for the Lege to interfere as well, so while this is another step down the path, the finish line is still a long way away. The Press has more.

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2 Responses to The FRA releases its alignment analysis for the high speed rail line

  1. voter_worker says:

    In my daydreams I see an interurban line from the high speed terminal, through downtown, and on to Clear Lake/League City and Galveston. A slick elevated connection with Uptown/Galleria could feed Dallas-area daytrippers into that mega-retail complex. The existing and emerging transit options on the Dallas end will give us Houstonians ample opportunities for trips to that area which would otherwise not warrant a drive or a flight to the Metroplex. I fear the reality is that rural interests will prevail in blocking this project. In some respects, this project resembles the now-dead Keystone pipeline: an intrusive infrastructure promoted by outside interests for their own gain and with no local benefits to offset the perceived negatives. I think there should be at least two intermediate stops, which would give the rural folks access to this technological marvel and just maybe convince enough of them that this is a worthwhile effort.

  2. Riskette says:

    290 @ 610 seems like a apt spot for a high speed rail terminus. I agree that how that might connect to local rail will be decided mainly by the impending mayoral runoff. In many respects the mayor race resembles the Turner – Bob Lanier race. Does Houston want more rail or the legacy Bob Lanier, the death trap that is Hwy 290? If you aren’t sure, may I suggest a drive on 290 near Langwood.

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