“We have not been attracting a lot of attention because it’s not a public project,” Eckels said. “We have been quietly doing environment [studies] and having discussions regarding right-of-way acquisition with [the Texas Department of Transportation] and the Federal Rail Administration.”
Eckels said TCR is considering three routes—one along Hwy. 290, one along Hwy. 59 and one along I-45. A final decision on which route is most feasible for a high-speed rail line could come soon.
“We’ll have a line on a map in 90 days,” Eckels said.
A route between Houston and Dallas provides ideal geography for a high-speed rail line—one that features straight and flat land through rural areas with no needed tunnels, Eckels said.
“There are no fatal flaws in any of the routes,” he said.
Eckels said TCR would soon issue a memo of understanding on a pair of environmental studies for the proposed line, a step toward starting construction.
TxDOT spokesman David Glessner said the department is serving in a supporting role in the development of a high-speed rail line, while the FRA leads the planning effort and TCR serves as the funding source.
“At this early stage, the proposals are very much in the discussion phase as we seek public input and other feedback related to needs, demand and feasibility,” Glessner said.
TxDOT has received part of an $8 billion federal grant created in 2009 to help develop high-speed passenger rail in the United States. However, according to TxDOT, that money will not be used on a potential Houston-to-Dallas line.
“Since the FRA is leveraging private funds for the environmental process from Dallas to Houston, TxDOT will use all of its grant dollars for environmental work examining high-speed rail from Fort Worth to Dallas,” Glessner said.
Eckels said once it begins, the environmental process would take about 18 months, and construction could begin soon after—possibly in 2016.
“We could be operational by 2021,” he said.
Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said for a high-speed rail line to be successful, drivers may need to change their habits.
“One of the things we have to overcome is the mentality—and I’m one of them—I feel like I have to have my car,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how fast we can adapt to a faster, more dependable transportation system.”
A possible high-speed rail system through Montgomery County will likely be included in the ongoing South Montgomery County Mobility Study being conducted by local entities and the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
Noack said Montgomery County would be an ideal location for a stop for a possible high-speed rail line.
“If we had dependable high-speed transit from Montgomery County to Houston, or from Houston to Dallas, then Montgomery County is set up to be a prime stopping point along the way,” Noack said.
Houston to Dallas by high-speed rail
- The N700-I Bullet System can reach speeds of more than 200 mph.
- The 240 miles between downtown Houston and downtown Dallas could be covered in about 77 minutes.
- A train would hold eight cars and would seat 400–500 passengers.
- Trains would leave about every 30 minutes during peak times.