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Texas Aims to Get State Wide Rail Back on Track

Wednesday, August 04, 2010 - 05:28 AM

(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF) Last January, Texas, America’s second most populous state, failed to secure federal stimulus dollars for its high-speed rail plan. Why?

Because it didn’t have one.

It still doesn’t, by the way.  The Lone Star State is known for being independent, not just for its perpetual resistance to interference by the federal government, but also for its independently-minded politicians and constituents. So instead of having one vision for the state’s rail network, Texas had eight, or nine, or possibly 10.

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Washington didn’t feel comfortable doling out millions of dollars to a state without a specific plan. Still, Texas makes a compelling case for inter-city high-speed rail. It’s home to three of the country’s ten biggest cities and linking these hubs is projected to create high commuter demand.

Out of 27,000 possible city pairs, a connection between Dallas and Houston ranked tenth in having the greatest potential demand, according to a study released last year by America 2050.

However, executing this passenger rail link could be logistically difficult, to say the least. Upgrading and expanding Texas’ passenger and freight rail network is tricky. Where other cities have empty, or under-utilized freight tracks, Texas’ lines are preoccupied with moving freight carrying the country’s chemicals and other resources. This means that putting passenger cars on existing freight lines may prove to be too cumbersome.

It’s no surprise that Texas is struggling to come up with a unified plan that is capable of attracting federal dollars. But the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is trying. TxDOT is currently developing a state-wide rail plan, for both passenger and freight, and the director of TxDOT’s rail division is on the road holding public meetings in multiple cities across the state.

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