Bullet train developers eye station sites in Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas and Houston

02/05/2014 5:55 PM

02/07/2014 1:09 PM

A private company that wants to build 220 mph bullet trains in Texas is committed to stopping in downtown Dallas, and is looking at sites near Union Station, the state’s new high-speed rail commission chairman said Wednesday.

Texas Central Railway, a company that aims to open a high-speed rail line from Houston to Dallas by 2021, is also open to the concept of extending the line to Arlington and Fort Worth, said Bill Meadows of Fort Worth, chairman of the North Texas High-Speed Rail Commission.

In Fort Worth, the T&P Station is a logical site for a station, Meadows said.

Meadows on Wednesday provided new details of the proposed service, which he said could fundamentally change the way Texans get around their state.

“High-speed rail is likely to be the preferred transportation method in the latter part or the middle part of the 21st century,” he said.

Texas Central Railway has offices in Dallas and Houston, as well as Washington, D.C., and the company aims to build a system similar to the bullet trains operating from Tokyo to Osaka. The Texas line would be built in a partnership with Japan Central Railway, which is not directly related to Texas Central Railway but has been involved in the conceptual planning of the Texas project from the outset.

Meadows said he met in late January with Japan Central Railway Chairman Yoshiyuki Kasai, who expressed interest in working with federal, state and local government officials to ensure the trains reached not only Houston and Dallas, but also Arlington and Fort Worth. Kasai visited all four cities in late January and met with many decision-makers, including Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

“I met with Chairman Kasai when he was in town, and he thinks it’s a very viable project and the connection needs to come through Fort Worth,” Price said in an interview last week. “It’s a one-seat ride. You buy a ticket in Fort Worth and go on to Arlington, Dallas and Houston. Ultimately, long-term he thinks it will come out of Mexico to San Antonio, Austin and north to Oklahoma City.”

Texas Central Railway has proposed building the first leg of the train system, from Houston to Dallas, by 2021, using an estimated $10 billion in private funding. The portion to Arlington and Fort Worth, possibly being built right on top of Interstate 30 right-of-way, likely would be built shortly afterward, Meadows said, although that second leg could cost another $4 billion and likely will require federal and local funding.

Dallas officials are giddy at the prospect of a high-speed rail station in their city. Union Station is the city’s downtown transit hub, with multiple Dallas Area Rapid Transit light-rail routes, Amtrak and the Trinity Railway Express serving the area. Next door is a vast empty lot where Reunion Arena once stood, and just beyond that is the recently renovated Dallas Convention Center.

But officials in other cities have insisted that Dallas not be the lone stop. The Regional Transportation Council, the Metroplex’s official planning body, has adopted a “three station” policy that calls for anyone bringing high-speed rail into the Metroplex to serve not only Dallas but also Fort Worth and either Arlington or DFW Airport in between.

The concept of using I-30 right-of-way emerged in recent months, as Texas Department of Transportation officials sought to help along the high-speed rail project without committing state highway funds to the deal.

The state agency created the North Texas High-Speed Rail Commission late last month, and is also helping with a federal environmental study of the proposed Dallas-to-Fort Worth line.

Texas Central Railway is leading a second federal environmental study of the Houston-to-Dallas portion of the route.

Those environmental and preliminary engineering studies are expected to take about two years, and will require public hearings.

Officials from Texas Central Railway’s Dallas office did not return a call Monday seeking comment.

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