Bill Meadows to take helm of new Texas high-speed rail commission

01/24/2014 8:30 PM

01/24/2014 8:30 PM

It should be clear to everyone that the Metroplex is one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas.

But in a state where most residents rely on cars and increasingly congested highways, innovative and alternative forms of transportation will be key to ensuring that cities like Fort Worth and Dallas remain desirable places to live.

Fortunately, this realization is not lost on leaders in Austin who are taking an encouraging step toward pursuing a futuristic rail project between Houston and northern Texas.

On Thursday, the Texas Transportation Commission is expected to approve the creation of a new high-speed rail commission.

At the commission’s helm will be Fort Worth’s own Bill Meadows.

Meadows, a former Fort Worth city councilman, was also a state transportation commissioner who helped bring millions of dollars for roadway projects to North Texas during his tenure in Austin.

As chairman of the new commission, his charge will be a bit different: He will manage the effort to incorporate the state’s highway rights of way into a still conceptual high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

The new post will bring immediate challenges.

As plans for the rail project begin to materialize, the high-speed railway debate in Texas is likely to arouse a variety of concerns, including environmental impact, landowner rights, taxpayer cost and value added to the tranportation mix.

And even in the railway’s embryonic stages, the question of where the northern terminus will be is contentious.

A study released by the University of Texas at Arlington last fall laid out several suggested railway routes. The plan most-advocated by elected officials is Arlington and Fort Worth calls for rail lines from Houston to Dallas, then along the I-30 corridor, connecting Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth, on highway land already owned by the state.

There is no guarantee that Meadows will advocate for the plan largely preferred in Tarrant County as he begins to weigh the multiplicity of concerns sure to surface.

But if past is prologue, Fort Worth and Arlington residents can rest assured that his presence at the top of the board will ensure that the best interests of the community will be considered.

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