Big plans in store for high-speed rail in Texas

Posted Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Those who worry that the plan to build a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas by 2021 is overly ambitious were probably having heart palpatations after the seven-member Commission for High-Speed Rail in Dallas/Fort Worth expanded its vision for bullet trains in Texas during a Wednesday meeting in Dallas.

“The Houston-to-Dallas connection is going to happen,” Ted Houghton, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, confidently told Star-Telegram reporter Gordon Dickson.

But even this initial line — which will now include a stop in Bryan-College Station — is just the tip of the iceberg.

The commission unanimously agreed Wednesday to pursue federal funding to study the possible construction of a Fort Worth-Austin connection.

Of course, a Fort Worth-Austin connection is only possible after officials figure out how to finance Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth link — a top priority for the residents of Tarrant County.

Unlike the Houston-Dallas route, which will cost about $10 billion and be privately financed by Texas Central Railway, the Metroplex connection will probably rely on public funds. Exactly how the state will come up with the estimated $2.5 billion to $4 billion needed remains to be determined.

Former Fort Worth city councilman and high-speed rail commission member Bill Meadows told the Star-Telegram editorial board in June that a $15 million federal grant to study high-speed rail will be devoted entirely to the Metroplex link.

But coming up with a plan to fund the line to Arlington and Fort Worth wasn’t the commission’s focus this week. Instead, its members explored the possibility of studying high-speed-rail lines connecting Oklahoma City to Austin, San Antonio and even Monterrey, Mexico.

Only a few years ago, the idea of a bullet train zipping between Dallas and Houston at 220 mph was little more than a pipe dream. That the high-speed rail commission is now considering expanding its lines beyond the border is a sign of the progress made.

Still, for Tarrant County, ensuring that the bullet train serves the entire Metroplex is the first order of business.

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