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A step forward for Houston-Galveston rail

We know that Metro is hoping for some stimulus money to help build light rail lines. Galveston is also hoping for some rail-related stimulus funds.

A commuter rail line between Galveston and Houston has been on the drawing board for so many years that many people have come to think of it as the community’s longest-running fantasy.

But Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas and City Manager Steve LeBlanc returned from Washington, D.C., with the impression that the rail project has a better chance of getting federal funding than any other transportation project.

Thomas and LeBlanc visited officials in Washington about a long list of requests for funds to help the area recover from Hurricane Ike. On that list is $10 million for a preliminary engineering study to run a commuter service along the Galveston-Houston & Henderson line, which runs alongside state Highway 3.

The Galveston representatives carried a letter in support of the commuter rail project that had been signed by the mayors of League City, Texas City, La Marque, Dickinson and Webster, as well as County Judge Jim Yarbrough and Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia. The Galveston representatives bumped into members of the Galveston County Commissioners Court, who were making similar requests for help recovering from the storm.

The commuter rail line would be built in two phases: Galveston to League City, and then from League City to downtown Houston.

The Galveston City Council approved that study back in December. The story notes that the cost of building this line is considerably less than the cost of widening I-45 to handle the same amount of traffic, which it puts at $2.2 billion. Here’s hoping they get their request. Thanks to Hair Balls for the link.

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6 Comments

  1. Amazing how much misinformation is out there:

    “The story notes that the cost of building this line is considerably less than the cost of widening I-45 to handle the same amount of traffic, which it puts at $2.2 billion.”

    I would love to see who and how was this “handle the same amount of traffic” calculated.

    City of Galveston has or use to have a population of 57 thousand. They want a commuter train to serve them for what purpose? Emergency evacuation?

    Is Galveston really thinking that they will park 57 thousand people/cars outside the Galveston railroad station so they all can take the commuter rail to downtown Houston? and then what? Get HISD buses to bus them out where?

    Or is it a commuter rail to bring tourism? If it is about tourism the comparison to I-45 is not only bad but terrible.

    I-45 is currently a regional evacuation route that serves millions of people and in its current condition is below design standards and floods.

    Now how do these folks get to compare a commuter train to Galveston with I-45 and make the argument that a commuter train will handle the same amount of traffic?

    Personally, somebody has his/her priorities mixed. Somebody is trying to make a living at the expense of hurricane preparedness at local and regional levels. Just my opinion.

    On the other hand I can fully support commuter rail from downtown Houston to College Station for all the right reasons.

  2. jon boyd says:

    “‘The story notes that the cost of building this line is considerably less than the cost of widening I-45 to handle the same amount of traffic, which it puts at $2.2 billion.’

    I would love to see who and how was this “handle the same amount of traffic” calculated.

    City of Galveston has or use to have a population of 57 thousand. They want a commuter train to serve them for what purpose? Emergency evacuation?

    Is Galveston really thinking that they will park 57 thousand people/cars outside the Galveston railroad station so they all can take the commuter rail to downtown Houston? and then what? Get HISD buses to bus them out where?”

    Look at the commuter rail study for H-GAC:
    http://www.hgaccommuterrail.com/docs/Final%20Report/CRC%20Report_Rev_09112008.pdf

    The Galveston peak boardings might not be that strong, but Dickenson, LaMarque, Webster, and FM 529 would each expect more than 1,000 inbound boardings/day
    at peak. Over 7,100 of those 8,200 peak trips would terminate north of Lawndale.

    How many cars/hour would additional northbound lanes be able to handle?

  3. We need both the rail and the widened I-45.

  4. Personally I support commuter rail to Galveston. In regional terms I think the Houston-College Station takes priority.

    At least 2000 cars per hour per lane. That is the capacity of a highway lane 24/7/365 and don’t have to wait for a train to use it.

    The capacity of a train depends on how many times the train runs and how many cars per train it holds. Then at each terminal people will need a way to get to their destination (whether walking or other means).

    In comparison the Trinity Railway in DFW links Fort Worth (pop 681k) to Dallas (pop 1240k) and mid cities (metro are pop over 6 million). The daily ridership is 10,900.

    But let folks do what they think is best. The test of time will be the judge. Transportation is like flooding. At critical times or emergencies is when people will question why things did or did not work as planned.

  5. Jeb says:

    Highways are expensive to build, and rail is a much-more cost-effective way to move people.

    As Justin points out, both rails and roads are needed. The Gulf Freeway is inadequate during even an average summer weekend, let along for evacuation purposes.

  6. Jardinero1 says:

    A main freeway lane with cars driving sixty miles per hour with a following distance of three seconds can only handle 1200 cars per hour. The actual use rate during peak rush hour is maxed at about sixty five percent of that or 780 cars per hour. A commuter train need only carry that many passengers per hour to match a freeway main lane.

    While you don’t have to wait for your own private automobile, your productive time is wasted while driving. While you do have to wait for a train, your productive time does not have to be wasted.