Feds Roll Out $15 Million to Begin Studying Feasibility of DFW-to-Houston High-Speed Rail

Categories: Transportation
obama-high-speed-rail-corridor.jpg
About a month back we looked at docs the Texas Department of Transportation submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration in the hopes of landing some federal money dough for that loooooong-discussed Dallas-Fort Worth-to-Houston high-speed rail line. Long story short: The state wanted $18 million so it could begin ID'ing possible routes for such a line and "determine the potential social, economic and environmental effects of the proposed route alternatives." Let's go to the grant application for a refresher:
The general location of the project is within the state of Texas between the metroplex of Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston parallel to the I-45 corridor and along two existing freight rail corridors. At this time there is not direct passenger rail service between these two locations. However, they are connected indirectly with Amtrak's Sunset Limited route, a three day a week service, and the Texas Eagle route which runs daily.

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Entities involved in the project's planning process include freight railroads (BNSF Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, and Houston Belt & Terminal Railway), National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), FRA, TxDOT, and other regional and local stakeholders such as Houston METRO, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Trinity Railway Express (TRE), the Gulf Coast Rail District (GCRD), North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), and the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC).

Completion of the preliminary engineering and NEPA documentation will result in the identification of a preferred alternative; the identification of the environmental effects of the preferred alternative and the mitigation measures required to offset the effects of the project; and an estimated probable cost of the project. This will allow the project to move into final design, with the ultimate goal of construction of a core express high speed rail facility between the two largest metropolitan areas of Texas.

TxDOT has the authority to enter into comprehensive development agreements (CDA) or public private partnerships for rail projects. TxDOT intends to pursue a long term Public Private Partnership for operation of the Houston to Dallas High Speed Rail project, which will require a standard of operating service in excess of 90% reliability.
Well, today U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the FRA's putting $15 million toward the Dallas/Fort Worth to Houston Core Express Service project, a fraction of the $2 billion in high-speed rail grants being awarded. Said LaHood, "President Obama and Vice President Biden's vision for a national rail system will help ensure America is equipped to win the future with the fastest, safest and most efficient transportation network in the world. The investments we're making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities."

Mark Werner, a rail engineer at TxDOT, tells Unfair Park today that, hey, "$15 million's better than nothing," but don't hold your breath. This is gonna take a good, long while before they can start getting started. But, hey, it's a start.

"It gets pretty involved," Werner says. "I'd be nice if we could get the money in six months and start working on it, but it takes a while to get all the papertwork submitted to and approved by the FRA." Still. It's better than nothing.


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45 comments
alternative investments san fr
alternative investments san fr

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RS1963
RS1963

I don't understand the extreme hate (and that may be an understatement) for commuter rail transportation here in Texas. Is it because they have it up north or in Europe, so we have some kind of anti-Yankee/pro-USA deal?

People act as if roads just appeared out of thin air without any taxpayer support. Or as if the airlines built the airports themselves. The US government has spent billions on roads and airports, so what is so wrong with spending $$$ on commuter rail? The fewer cars on 45 the better.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

The only reason dallas needs HSR is bc its supercool, and Dallas wants to be a cool city, just look at our awesome bridges and Hotel, dont we want to train people from houston right to our worldclass sights?

pak152
pak152

while HSR sounds cool and sexy the cost and inflexibility of the system dooms it. why not encourage intercity bus travel instead? up and down the East Coast one can purchase a bus ticket and quickly be in NYC or anywhere else. it has a lower entry cost, greater scheduling and the ability to add equipment more rapidly as demand increases

http://mjperry.blogspot.com/20...

http://www.newgeography.com/co...

dallasmay
dallasmay

Thank you, Florida-Governor-What-ever-his-name, for being really, really stupid.

Your loss is everyone else's gain.

Guest
Guest

The US was built on the railway. The same rules apply in 2011. I don't see why there's so much resistance to this concept. Every other modern country has high-speed, it's an awesome thing.

Guest
Guest

Very frustrating to see politics and Tea-party rhetoric stopping high-speed rail from happening quicker in the US. Don't know about anyone else, but i'd kill to have a Dallas-Austin high-speed link!

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall

No money to repair existing roads - No money to build new roads - The sale of existing roads and new roads to foreign investors leaving citizens to pay tolls FOREVER, tolls that leave the state revenue stream. YEP - lets spend borrowed money to look into high speed rail. After all we all know how successful AMTRAK has been

Ben
Ben

"At this time there is not direct passenger rail service between these two locations" THAT IS WHY THERE IS NO LINE BETWEEN HOUSTON & DALLAS. You have to go to Austin & take a hard left!

Txsurfer1
Txsurfer1

The Southwest Airlines, Continental/Untied & AA airline lobbies will kill this quickly

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Yes, it's feasible.

$15 million saved. I'll take the standard consultant fee and be on my way.

Bob
Bob

I am waiting for Rick Perry's announcement that Texas will refuse this money because, because, because, trains are SO unTexan. After secession, he will revive the Trans-Texas Corridor, and claim credit for wanting to put high-speed rail into Texas. Of course, the contracts will go only to those who contribute to Perry's political slush funds.

Gabe
Gabe

The Vision for High-Speed Rail picture doesn't show a Houston Line. Please use MSPAINT to include one, preferably in teal or maybe a nice taupe.

MattL1
MattL1

Would the train stop at Buc-ee's?

md
md

"Said LaHood, "President Obama and Vice President Biden's visioN..."

Sounds like an impartial assessment by the Transportation Secretary.

zobzerto
zobzerto

I don't understand it either. And people don't seem to get that gas is only going to get more expensive, making both driving and flying more expensive.

Multiple modes of transportation will benefit consumers. Choice is a good thing.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

you can fly to Houston cheaper than you can drive and that doesnt make for fewer cars on 45 now does it

dertymindz
dertymindz

You actually hit the nail on the head there. This is exactly why a good majority of folks want it to happen, because they think it's cool and then we can brag about our train system and we can imagine we're getting closer to the likes of NYC and their ilk.

pak152
pak152

really? he was stupid for turning down something that barely moved faster than the speed of a car?

pak152
pak152

rail is best used to move freight not people

Guest
Guest

Maybe if we're allowed to carry guns and stop pregnant women from being on board the trains he'd be up for it

pak152
pak152

lets hope that he does turn down the money as high speed rail is a boondoggle. want to get to Houston quickly? then hop in SWA. for the highspeed rail to compete with SWA it will need to average at least 200mph+ with no stops in between. if there are stops as proposed in the past then it will be competing with the cars on I45 and the cars will win every time.

Dallas M
Dallas M

Yes. Just like a person is stupid if they put all of their retirement investment into one single mutual fund or company. Just like a military is stupid if they only invest in their ground forces. Just like a football team is stupid if they only have passes in their playbook.

Diversification is the key to long term success. Putting all of your eggs into one transportation basket is stupid.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I think Europe and Japan might disagree.

dallasmay
dallasmay

... and grope every person just trying to get on the train.

But hey, that might be your thing. I'm not judgin' you.

Guest
Guest

I think the concept of the high-speed line from Dallas-Houston is similar to the Flying Scotsman line from Edinburgh to London in the UK, which I used a lot. Non-stop, travelling at crazy speeds in comfort. I'd be in the Scottish capital at 12 and be in the English capital 90 minutes later. Why wouldn't Texas want that?

Colin Z.
Colin Z.

Texas would be wise to follow Florida's example. They killed the proposed Orlando-Tampa line for the same reasons Dallas-Houston should be killed.

Also, why would I want to park a car in Dallas and then rent a car in Houston? Or vice versa? It's not like either city is walkable. It's not like either city has realistic public transportation options.

We are not Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago, or SF.

Gabe
Gabe

What if I wanted to get to Houston quickly without disrobing, bathing in x-rays, and checking my shampoo?

scottindallas
scottindallas

Pak, not all gov't expenditures are equal. If this train operates at a loss, all that money will be circulated through the economy. That is far different than say military spending, where we hope we don't use the weapons we purchase. Then, if we do use the weapons, that comes with great unknown long term costs. What's the benefit of going to war for access to oil contracts under sufferance? What's the benefit of competition in intercity travel? This is a social subsidy that goes to the commons, so business and individuals will benefit. The mechanics and technicians are good jobs that expedite business for the economy at large.

pak152
pak152

here are the reasons why the governor rejected the money

First – capital cost overruns from the project could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion.Second – ridership and revenue projections are historically overly-optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur. (from $300 million – $575 million over 10 years) – Note: The state subsidizes Tri-Rail $34.6 million a year while passenger revenues covers only $10.4 million of the $64 million annual operating budget.Finally – if the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion in federal funds to D.C.http://floridaindependent.com/...

pak152
pak152

apparently you are unaware that one reason for rejecting the grant was the unknown long term costs of the system. The governor did not want the state stuck with costs for which they would be unable to pay.

I don't disagree that transportation is a key, but do take a look at this blog post from 2007 which talks about the last mile cost of HSR

http://houstonstrategies.blogs...

I would also suggest that you read the links I provided concerning the rise of intercity buslines

pak152
pak152

I guess you haven't seen the amount of freight moved along EU raillines then. don't forget that in the EU and Japan there is a much greater population density than in the majority of the US.

I would suggest though that whether in the EU and Japan that RRs on a pound for pound basis carry more freight than people

pak152
pak152

don't forget that farmers and ranchers were opposed to the rail project. SWA was just the lead.

md
md

It makes sense then to invest hundreds of billions in a money-losing project that would cause the airline industry to lose even more money. That's your argument?

Gabe
Gabe

I think that was Coston's point - no intercity transportation had ever made a direct profit.

pak152
pak152

and how much profit has Amtrak made? ever wonder why the private sector RRs stopped passenger rail? could it be because they make no money?

IF IIRC correctly SWA has made a profit?

you got anything more recent?

pak152
pak152

well Gabe read this article

"The Obama administration will look at tightening security on trains if intelligence collected from Osama bin Laden’s compound about a rail plot is substantiated,Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/s..."so you may just have to go through the disrobing etc. that said I recently flew SWA from Love Field to Kansas City and back. didn't have to disrobe, one place did xray the other didn't as for shampoo. not a problem you can either do the 3 oz or purchase a big bottle when you arrive at your destinationI'm not a big fan of TSA especially when incidents like this one happen http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2...

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