Competition for a high-speed rail network in Texas may be heating up. The Texas Tribune reports that Chinese, French and Japanese interests may be lining up to provide an alternative to the short haul flights that now connect Texas’ major cities. The earliest possible date for actual rail service floating around is 2021. But it can’t happen soon enough for Red.
Texas Central Partners has drawn attention with its plans to develop a Dallas-Houston high-speed rail line using Japanese trains. While that project is furthest along, French and Chinese rail interests are more quietly discussing the prospects for rail projects with state and local officials.
“There comes a time when adding lanes is not a solution anymore, and that’s when you realize you need more public transportation,” said Alain Leray, president of SNCF America, the U.S. subsidiary of French rail operator SNCF. The company has been talking with Texas officials in earnest for about a year about potential rail projects, Leray said.
Chinese-backed rail interests have also approached some transportation officials in Texas about future projects, several transportation officials confirmed.
The Lone Star Rail District plans to connect San Antonio and Austin by efficient and time effective rail service seems to moving slowly towards reality. LSRD officials are seeking $500,000 in funding from the San Antonio City Council to begin planning work in the Alamo City. The LSRD plan includes improving the existing Union Pacific rail line between San Antonio and Austin for passengers at an estimated cost of $800 million. But LSRD first has to build a $1.6 billion freight line east of San Antonio to divert freight traffic. Funding for the rail line improvements is expected to come from state and federal grants as well as the private sector. LSRD also needs assurances from municipalities along its route from San Antonio to Georgetown that they will pay for continued maintenance and operations of each stop.
LSRD envisions transported 20,000 people each day and reducing traffic on I-35 by 18,000 vehicles. The plan includes 16 stations with six in the San Antonio, one in New Braunfels, one in San Marcos, one in Buda/Kyle and the rest in the Austin-Georgetown corridor.
Red took the train from Austin to San Antonio exactly one time – with his mother when he was 5. Red didn’t ride on a train again until he was 20 years old and taking a train from New Jersey into New York City. The average European could not imagine a 15 year gap in train trips.