Houston-Dallas High Speed Train Clears Federal Hurdle

The Texas 'bullet train' cleared a major hurdle with the release of a draft environmental impact statement from the Federal Railroad Administration that identifies a preferred route between Dallas and Houston as well as passenger station locations.

The Texas Bullet Train made a big push forward as federal regulators have outlined a preferred route for the all-electric between Dallas and Houston that mostly follows transmission lines along an existing utility corridor between North Texas and Houston.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) analysis, completed after nearly four years of work, provides a path for the high-speed train’s planning, design and pre-construction phases, and it ensures the safety and environmental wellbeing of counties and communities along the 240- mile route. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) starts the consultation process that will allow the Bullet Train to link the state’s two largest urban and economic centers in a travel time of less than 90 minutes, with a midway stop in the Brazos Valley.

The U.S. Department of Transportation called the report’s release “an important milestone” in the permitting process of the train. “Safe, accessible and efficient regional rail systems are an important component in the transportation networks of many areas,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said, referring to the Texas Bullet Train and others being developed. “As proposed, these rail projects would increase travel options and promote economic growth in their regions of the country.”

The assessment is the latest major advancement by the train, a 240-mile, $15 billion high-speed passenger train that will be privately funded by Texas Central Partners. Texas Central is aiming to break ground in late 2018. Company officials expect the project to 240-mile, $15 billion project privately funded by Texas Central Partners years, create more than 10,000 direct jobs per year during construction and up to 1,000 jobs permanently when operational.

In February, the company revealed that it had signed option agreements with owners of about 30 percent of the necessary parcels across 10 counties along the planned route. Those option agreements bind property owners to sell Texas Central land needed for the train’s right-of-way, once final federal approvals and funding to build the line are secured.

In August, the company announced that it had signed an agreement with the City of Houston to coordinate passenger connectivity between the planned Houston train station and Houston’s major activity centers. Texas Central would ensure that the terminal has a “high level of integration with local transit systems,” including “convenient, efficient and direct access for passengers to and from local transit systems,” according to the memorandum of understanding between the company and the City of Houston.

The DEIS report also identified potential passenger terminal sites in Dallas, Houston and the only midway stop, in Grimes County, serving Bryan/College Station (Texas A&M University) in the Brazos Valley. The report notes transit services in Dallas and Harris counties, operated by DART and METRO respectively, could see increased ridership because of the project.

The Dallas station will be in the Cedars area south of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. The Brazos Valley Station in Grimes County will be near Texas 90 and State Highway 30. It would serve Bryan-College Station and include direct shuttle service to Texas A&M University. It also lists three options for the Houston passenger terminal, with a final to be determined later. It would be in the general area south of U.S. 290, west of Loop 610 and north of Interstate 10 –near major employment centers, including the Galleria, Medical Center, Energy Corridor and downtown.

All images courtesy of Texas Central.

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