High-Speed Rail Trying to Get Back on Track in Texas

The vision of high-speed rail lines swiftly shuttling Texans between big cities such as San Antonio and Houston in brisk 90-minute trips is trying to get back on track.

Bullet trains in Texas are being touted again in a big way, and backers who hope to have a $12 billion to $18 billion network of high-speed trains running by 2020 say their proposal won't fall flat again.

Fifteen years ago, an initial plan went nowhere. The new push bills a so-called Texas T-Bone corridor that would run between cities including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Waco.

Under the plan, the rail would travel at an average speed of 200 mph and would run to stations at airports. More than 70 percent of Texans live in areas that would be served, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"In the past, high-speed rail was not completed in Texas primarily because it was a top-down model driven by lobbyists out of Austin," said former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, chairman of the nonprofit Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corp.

Proponents told lawmakers during a transportation meeting Wednesday that they're reaching out to former opponents such as Southwest Airlines, which fought the last high-speed rail project as a potential competitor.

Southwest Airlines spokesman Chris Mainz said the airline is neutral on the proposal.

Backers plan on the project being primarily privately financed, although they acknowledge they'll need the markets to change to get the investment going.

They're also seeking state help, including tax exemptions for companies that would build the project and some $100 million for environmental and market studies.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry said the project currently is not viable without large government subsidies, but will become more feasible as the population grows denser and more populated around the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas.

Perry believes high-speed rail "could very well be in the future of Texas," spokeswoman Allison Castle said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us