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Dallas To Houston Bullet Train Still On Track

Plans for the proposed high-speed rail line from Dallas to Houston continue. Environmental impact studies are under way for the line, which would cost several billion dollars and be privately funded. On Friday, the president of the company behind the rail line gave an update.

At the Southwestern Rail Conference in Dallas, Texas Central Railway CEO Robert Eckels says the project’s on schedule. Construction could begin as early as 2017, and passengers could start boarding the train as early as 2021.

A dozen public meetings about the proposed project ended last week. A federal study is looking at the viability of this bullet train, and what routes would serve the most passengers with the least impact on landowners.

“Landowners though, each have their own view of sovereignty and we will talk about that as we go through our scoping process and what it takes to build a train in the state of Texas,” Eckels said, aware that private property rights is a big issue.

It will take at least $10 billion from local and foreign investors to build the line. Eckels says it also takes a willingness to put up a terminal about halfway between Dallas and Houston.

“We plan to stop on Highway 30 and Shiro," Eckels says. "We’d look at that as a potential station location to link along Highway 30 probably 15 to 20 miles over to Bryan/College Station or from there. We could also get to Huntsville, serving both those universities in those communities.”

As for the stop in Dallas, Eckels says five options are still being considered. Press reports suggest buildings housing The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV might be a possible location for a downtown terminal. Eckels said that’s premature.

There’s also the chance this bullet train could extend from Dallas to Fort Worth. At a Dallas meeting last year, citizens did not back the idea, saying the cost was too high for the short trip. But Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley likes the idea of the train going to Fort Worth. 

“Quite honestly I believe the Fort Worth to Dallas line is every bit as feasible as the Dallas to Houston,” Whitley says. “I think the difficulty is going to be in exactly finding the places to stage the trains, to bring them in.”

A government study is underway to make that determination too. Even if it’s feasible, Whitley admits the challenge there would be finding government money, since a Dallas to Fort Worth line would not be privately funded.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.