While a San Antonio-to-Austin rail line remains an unrealized dream, a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas is much closer to connecting the state’s two largest metropolitan areas.

The 240-mile route would take riders from Houston to Dallas – with a stop near College Station – in 87 minutes, said Holly Reed, the managing director of external affairs of Texas Central. Texas Central is the private company that has been raising capital, purchasing land, and securing contracts for rail line construction and high-speed trains for the Houston-Dallas project.

Texas Central is still in the process of buying land; only about 30 to 40 percent of the land needed has been purchased. The total price tag has yet to be tallied, but Reed said the construction for the rail line alone – not including land purchases or the train system – would cost $14 billion. The project is completely funded by private investors with no state or federal dollars involved.

Reed told the Rivard Report that the Texas company expects to put shovel to dirt by the end of 2020.

“It’s about a five- to six-year build, which means you’d be riding the train in 2026,” Reed said.

The idea from the high-speed rail effort came from ex-military members, most of who were not Texans, Reed explained. They rode high-speed trains in foreign countries, particularly Asia, and said, “Why don’t we have this?” she said. 

“There’s a sweet spot for high-speed trains, and it’s too short to fly and too long to drive,” Reed said. “This is 240 miles apart, which is right in that strike zone.”

Not only are the two cities separated by an ideal distance, the topography of Texas makes it a less challenging project to build compared to, for example, California.

“It’s straight,” Reed said. “It’s flat. There’s 500 feet of elevation change. There’s no mountains, no major bodies of water. So the cost side of the equation works – fewer engineering challenges.”

In South Central Texas, 20 state legislators have revived talk of a San Antonio to Austin passenger rail line. Area lawmakers signed a letter in August asking Transportation Committee chair and state Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) to study the possibility of rail between the two cities.

 

On Wednesday, rail in Texas was the topic of a panel discussion that included Reed, State Rep. Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio), and Tyson Moeller, general director of network development for Union Pacific railroad, at a San Antonio Chamber of Commerce transportation committee meeting.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.