Plans for Central Texas passenger rail chugging along



Posted on December 18, 2013 at 7:13 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 18 at 7:20 PM

SAN MARCOS -- Another city has joined Austin in committing money towards passenger rail service along the Interstate 35 corridor. It's an effort to give people choices and alleviate traffic.

The trains would run on the existing track that Union Pacific freight trains currently use.

Tuesday night, the San Marcos city council approved funding with the Lone Star Rail District. 

The goal of the Lone Star Rail District is to have passenger service from Georgetown all the way south to San Antonio. Some people who drive I-35 said it would help congestion.

“I think it's a great innovation and a great step forward. It's just a matter of whether or not we can get enough public interest and public participation to make it pay,” said driver Barry Brittain.

”Our ridership projections for year 2035 show over five million trips per year being taken on this system,” said Joe Black, rail director of Lone Star Rail District.

He said currently they're only in planning, and that it’s a big step to get cities to agree to some funding. It’s something that must be done before they can get state and federal assistance.

“We would take a portion of growth and property tax in an area around stations [in Austin]. San Marcos is slightly different in that it includes any growth in property tax, plus it includes some sales tax around those stations, or a portion of it,” said Black.

Only Austin and San Marcos have signed on, but Black said they’re currently in discussions with San Antonio, and that they’ve had preliminary talks with Round Rock, Georgetown and some counties.

An environmental study will begin in 2014 and will last about three years. You wouldn’t see actual trains until after 2019. They will be different from Metro North’s Red Line. These will have a locomotive at the front or the back, with double decker coaches.

The funding agreements do not mean new taxes. The rail would get a percentage of property tax the cities collect in certain areas.

They haven't yet determined that percentage and won't see that money, which is for operation and maintenance, until they have a commitment from the federal government and the money to build the system.

Go here for more information on the Lone Star Rail District.