Another bill has been filed in the Texas Legislature to jump start creation of a ‘high speed rail’ system to connect the state’s major cities, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The bill would create a ‘Joint Interim Committee’ that would study proposals for high speed rail development, and potentially begin yet another attempt to build a passenger rail link across the state. Peter LeCody, with the Texas Rail Advocates says the state’s population is growing rapidly, and we can’t keep pouring asphant forever.
“If you could relax for ninety minutes on a 240 mile trip, wouldn’t you want to take that instead of driving down Interstates?” he asked.
Various groups have tried and failed over the past several decades to win approval for high speed, European style passenger rail across Texas.One major effort was mounted during the Bill Clements Administration in the late 1980s, to build what was then called a ‘bullet train’ between Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston.
TxDOT has flirted with other high speed rail concepts over the years, and a private company is making an effort to get a high speed rail link built connecting Dallas and Houston. Also, the Lone Star Rail District tried for years but eventually failed in its attempt to build a passenger rail connection between San Antonio and Austin.
Similarly, urban light rail has been repeatedly shot down as a transportation option for increasingly congested San Antonio, and has become so discredited that Mayor Nirenberg has vowed not to pursue light rail in his major transportation initiative which will be presented to San Antonio voters in November.
Several factors have led to the defeat of these rail proposals. They range from the cost of the project and an unwillingness to use state funds to assist with the project. Others are the need to use eminent domain to seize private farm and ranch land for track right of way, the already congested nature of the state’s urban centers which would make laying new track virtually impossible, and the unwillingness of existing rail companies, which see freight transportation booming thanks to trade deals between the U.S. and Mexico, to allow their existing tracks to be used for passenger rail.
And, there is also the unwillingness of many Texas residents to support any method of transportation which does not involve the driving of personal vehicles on traditional highways.
But LdCody says those traditional highways will become increasingly packed with cars and other vehicles over the coming several decades as the state’s population boom continues, and now is the time to move on alternatives before gridlock begins damaging the state’s economy, and quality of life.
He says even die-hard rail opponents, once you have built it, will come.
“In the cities when we start the rail lines for the urban light rails, all of a sudden everybody is asking ‘where is my station’?”
One of the majority players entering the mix is a start up called Virgin Trains, which is backed by transportation billionaire Richard Branson. He is already looking at the possibility of high speed rail linking Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.