The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) are seeking public input on proposed intercity rail services between Oklahoma City and South Texas.
The Interstate 35 corridor currently has Amtrak service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth (Heartland Flyer), Fort Worth and San Antonio (Texas Eagle) and in San Antonio on the Sunset Limited route between Los Angeles and New Orleans. The FRA and TxDOT said more than 10 million people live along the 850-mile stretch of the corridor, and the corridor is expected to grow by 39 percent in Texas and 25 percent in Oklahoma City by 2035.
“This corridor is home to major financial, energy, and education centers that people rely on every day,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a release. “Providing efficient, more reliable, and faster higher-speed passenger rail options to move between cities is crucial for the economy and the population to thrive. I encourage those along the I-35 corridor to participate in the comment and public hearing opportunities so that they are able to learn more and share their input.”
The TxDOT study was funded by a $5.6 million grant by the FRA in the 2012 fiscal year with the goal of finding “new and improved passenger rail service to meet future intercity travel demand, improve rail facilities, reduce travel times, and improve connections with regional public transit services as an alternative to bus, plane, and private auto travel.”
The routes impacting Austin, designated C4A, C4B and C4C, would all use “a new alignment outside existing highway and rail corridors to accommodate maximum operating speeds” between Hillsboro and San Antonio. The southern portion of the proposed routes would “generally follow the BNSF alignment for about 250 miles.” DOT maps indicate the Austin stop would be at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Go here for the executive summary of the proposed routes (Routes C4A-C are discussed on pages 14-15).
The proposed routes for the Austin area differ in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Route C4A would follow the Trinity Railway Express tracks between Fort Worth and Dallas before following the BNSF alignment toward Waxahachie. C4B would use “a new elevated high-speed rail alignment” over I-30 between Dallas and Fort Worth before turning south toward Hillsboro on a new rail alignment. Route C4C would have a clockwise route from Hillsboro to Fort Worth parallel to the Union Pacific tracks there, going on to Dallas and then back to Hillsboro.
An open house and presentation will be held Aug. 9 in Laredo, Aug. 10 in Austin and Aug. 11 in Arlington to answer the public’s questions. Go here for more information about the rail study.
Comments are being taken on the Environmental Impact Statement until Aug. 29, and the final EIS is projected to be released in 2017.