Vice President Joe Biden came to Dallas Wednesday to promote investment in transit, roads and rail.
It was a beautifully sunny afternoon on the roof of the expansive Southside On Lamar apartments. Biden, introduced by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, called himself the "train guy." He told a handpicked crowd of about 100 people that he’s commuted more than 2 million miles from D.C. to Delaware on Amtrak over his 42 years in politics.
Now Texas could build the nation’s first bullet train.
“Projects like this one is a no-brainer,” Biden said. “They make sense from every single perspective you look at. Look at China, look at Japan, look at Europe.”
Biden said there’s no reason the United States can’t have what they have – modern, high-speed rail, and for some of the fastest growing U.S. cities here in Texas.
The privately-funded rail project, valued in the billions of dollars, would move passengers between Dallas and Houston in 90 minutes. Biden said it would bring thousands of jobs while relieving congestion that’s turning our roads into parking lots.
“When they see a train going 200-plus miles an hour, that’s clean, on time, and functional, you’re going to see the rest of the United States, including even our Republican friends who weren’t happy about it, all of a sudden say: 'why don’t we have that?'" Biden said.
But first, Congress has to invest in infrastructure, Biden says.
He said they haven’t even funded a highway bill in years. He said infrastructure investments used to be a relatively easy bipartisan vote.
Ron Kirk, the former U.S. trade representative and Dallas mayor, is now an advisor for the bullet train. He said he’s been a rail fan since his days as mayor. That’s when DART’s light rail began rolling.
“Everybody told us it was going to fail,” Kirk recalls. “Nobody believed it would work. Now the words ‘transit oriented development’ are part of our lexicon. And we celebrate development in Frisco and Plano, in Richardson. And that pales in comparison to what we can do when we build this bullet train.”
Kirk said even though the high-speed train is privately funded, federal dollars could help it along if money were freed up.
“The federal government wants to facilitate high-speed rail,” Kirk says. “California took it. Texas turned away money for infrastructure. To the degree there’s competitive money we can compete for, of course we would do that.”
Rawlings knows just where he would like to see federal bullet train money go, if it becomes available. There’s talk of a Dallas-Fort Worth run.
“Now when we go on to Fort Worth we’re going to be talking to anybody and everybody about why that makes sense. But that’s the second act,” Rawlings said.
Meanwhile, the first act has a way to go. Texas Central Railway, the bullet train builder, must first buy some tracts of land between Dallas and Houston. Some landowners and officials in these mostly rural regions have vowed to fight project, fearing they would lose their property to eminent domain.