SAN ANTONIO — The federal government, Texas and a private company are collectively working on two studies to assess the impact of a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx confirmed Tuesday.
Foxx, speaking at the Texas Transportation Forum, an annual conference put on by the Texas Department of Transportation, said that the Federal Railroad Administration, TxDOT and Texas Central High-Speed Railway will move forward this year on environmental impact studies related to the project. The completion of such a study is typically a key early step in developing a major transportation project.
“I can’t speak to whether there will be roadblocks or anything down the road, but what I can tell you is I’m delighted to be part of helping get this first step underway,” Foxx said in an interview after his speech. “It’s a big deal for Texas, and we’ll see what happens going forward.”
In 2012, Texas Central High-Speed Railway announced plans to develop a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas entirely with private funding. Company officials said the project, which could reduce travel time between the two cities to less than 90 minutes, would use bullet train technology from a Japanese firm that already operates a profitable bullet train line in Japan. The firm is expected to release details of the proposed route for a Dallas-to-Houston line later this year. Company officials have expressed hope that the line could be up and running as soon as 2021.
TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson said that two separate environmental impact studies are in development. The Federal Railroad Administration and Texas Central High-Speed Railway will conduct a study of a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston. TxDOT, in partnership with the FRA, will sponsor a study of a slower rail line connecting Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas.
“We, TxDOT, will sponsor the environmental impact study on the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington side,” Wilson said. “The private sector will sponsor the EIS for that Houston/Dallas corridor.”
TxDOT officials could not provide a timeline for when either study would be completed.
While a private firm is developing the Houston-Dallas line, Wilson said that no state money is planned to build the shorter Fort Worth-Arlington-Dallas line. North Texas leaders have advocated for the latter project to ensure that the entire Dallas/Fort Worth region will be able to access a high-speed rail station in Dallas, if one is built. If the project moves forward, the affected communities would need to identify funding for that local line, Wilson said.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/01/08/federal-studies-announced-texas-high-speed-rail/.