Politics & Government

Vice President Joe Biden: North Texas can lead the way in high speed rail

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at an event in Dallas on Wednesday.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at an event in Dallas on Wednesday. Star-Telegram

Vice President Joe Biden believes North Texas — with its plans to be part of a high-speed rail line to Houston — will lead the nation in 21st century infrastructure.

Plans to launch a bullet train between Dallas and Houston, which could cut a four- or five-hour drive down to 90 minutes, impressed Biden so much that he made his way to Dallas on Wednesday.

“Ten years from now, you will look back on the risk you took,” Biden told about 100 supporters gathered on the rooftop at the South Side on Lamar. “Mark my words, when they see a train going 200 plus mph that’s clean, on time and functional, you’re going to see the rest of the country and our Republican friends ... say, ‘Why don’t we have that?’

“You’re going to lead this country into an entire new era of transportation,” he said. “I hope you invite me back because I plan on riding this sucker.”

Biden’s visit Wednesday was part of a three-stop Texas swing that began in Houston, where he spoke with Mayor Annise Parker about infrastructure. After his nearly hourlong stop in Dallas, Biden was on his way to San Antonio to attend a Democratic National Committee event.

Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings told the vice president that he and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price were excited to have him in North Texas.

The backdrop for Wednesday’s speech, he said, was the proposed site for where high-speed rail from Dallas to Houston “will roll in 2021.”

While plans seem in place for this Dallas rail service, which will include the use of private funds, it is expected to lead to more opportunities for rail in Tarrant County.

“DFW is very creative and inventive,” said Victor Vandergriff, of Arlington, who serves on the Texas Transportation Commission and attended Biden’s speech. “If the private sector effort is done [in Dallas], I think that will create opportunity people will take advantage of” in Tarrant County.

Price helped welcome Biden but had to leave before his speech in order to catch a flight to Washington, D.C.

“He was very interested in Fort Worth and Dallas as a region, and I talked to him about how important it is that cities and the feds work closely since we are close to the citizens,” she said. “He said he was impressed that a conservative mayor from Fort Worth and a liberal mayor from Dallas worked so closely together on issues for the region.”

North Texas rail

A proposal is at hand in Dallas to develop a train similar to one in Japan that connects Osaka and Tokyo. A private company in Dallas, Texas Central Partners, would develop the high-speed link in Texas.

“Behind us is the proposed site for where Dallas-Houston high-speed rail will roll in 2021,” Rawlings told Biden. “Once we get that, we will head on over to Fort Worth as well.”

Biden said this project could bring 10,000 temporary jobs over the next four years and pump $80 million into the economy.

Earlier this year, the Regional Transportation Council agreed to pay millions through 2018 to continue planning efforts for a proposed bullet train system that would connect Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas.

Studying the issue of bullet trains should be in the final stages by the time state lawmakers head back to work in 2017.

If all goes well, the effort to connect Tarrant County to Houston by high-speed rail could be a reality in the next decade, officials have said.

Bad word?

The vice president, who last month decided not to pursue a presidential bid, visited North Texas one day after leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke in Dallas to supporters.

On Wednesday, Biden said it has been tough to get an infrastructure bill passed in Congress since Democrats lost control.

“I don’t know what got into my Republican friends,” he said. “Now, somehow, infrastructure is a bad word. Rail is more than about getting from point A to point B. It’s about opportunity.”

He said the country needs more than $3 trillion just to keep pace with the country’s infrastructure needs.

“Without investing in the infrastructure in the United States ... how are we going to lead the 21st century?”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

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