Whenever we travel to bigger cities, many of us notice the train transportation that world-class cities have. The state capital wants to be called a world-class city too, yet repeated efforts to bring regular light rail service have failed.
Still, many of us fantasize that we would drop the car if only we had good rail service.
It appears that idea is once again coming up in Central Texas. Mark Dewey is a freelancer who covers business and technology. He’s been following the rebirth of the high-speed train dream.
The concept is to transplant a 200-mile-per-hour Japanese bullet train into rural Texas. It would link Dallas and Houston. It would be the first true high-speed rail in the United States, Dewey says. If the plan moves forward, it would be completed before California’s similar project.
Dewey says the train would be built with about $10 billion in private money, on currently private land.
“As you can imagine the project has a lot of people pretty excited,” Dewey says.
The land would come from individual owners, acquired through eminent domain laws. Dewey says that even though the train would be paid for by private owners, eminent domain laws still would hold because the project is in the public interest. Even so, Dewey says the company behind the project, Texas Central Partners, is trying another tactic with landowners first.
“What they’re trying to do is a little bit of a charm offensive,” Dewey says. “I’m not sure it’s working, but they’ve had a series of community meetings.”
The company wants to pay landowners for the right of way, Dewey says, possibly more than owners would get if they went to court.
“There’s a lot of excitement on both ends,” Dewey says.
Mayors of Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and Arlington have all come out in support of the project, as has Vice President Joe Biden, real estate developers and others.
“A lot of people in the middle, as you can imagine, are not so happy about it,” Dewey says. “A lot of people are living a rural lifestyle or living in the country to enjoy peace and quiet. It’s hard to enjoy peace and quiet with a train in your backyard.”
One group, Texans Against High-Speed Rail say they’ve had enough, but Dewey says projects like this are unavoidable.
“The fact is, if you’re one of these landowners anywhere between Dallas and Houston, there’s some sort of project that’s gonna be coming at ya all the time,” he says.