Are Bullet Trains really coming to Texas? Austin?

Texas Central High-Speed Railway, a privately funded organization, has been working on a proposal to build a high speed railway between Houston and Dallas. The high speed train would connect the two cities in less than 90-minutes at over 200 miles per hour.

Dallas Houston bullet trainOne main reason why this project might actually be successful is that they aren’t reliant on Federal grants or taxpayer money and because of this the project seems to have a higher likelihood of actually being built.

The group has formed a partnership with the Central Japan Railway (J.R. Central) with the goal of bringing the “Shinkansen” bullet train, also called the N700, to Texas. This train can travel at more than 240 mph and has an unbelievable safety record… zero injuries or deaths in over 50-years of operation.

It’s certainly not a done deal, but environmental studies have been completed and construction is “slated” to begin sometime in 2017.

Another group called the High-Speed Rail commission is also getting serious about developing a line from Ft. Worth to Austin, with the overall goal of connecting  Mexico to the south and Oklahoma City to the north.  TxDOT formed the commission, so that in itself could doom the project due to their history of studying projects to death.

Austin bullet trainBut plans are underway to use Federal grants to study the I-35 corridor as the best route. In my opinion however, I just don’t see how I-35 could work the entire way, especially through downtown Austin. My guess is that the line could travel near I-35 and veer east along SH-130. That would also make more sense since it would provide easier access to ABIA—but I’m not a transportation planner so I don’t get to decide.

There are several reasons why high speed rail would work in Texas:

  • Dallas and Houston are two of the largest cities in the US.
  • These cities along with Austin are also the fastest growing in the nation.
  • There are no major mountains or landmarks that would drive up the construction cost on either route.
  • The air routes between Houston and Dallas are among the busiest in the country.
  • The 200-250 mile distance is considered close to the “ideal length” for a bullet train.
  • It currently takes more than 4 hours by car between Dallas and Houston. The bullet train would cut that trip to 90 minutes!

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