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Profile of the Texas High Speed Rail "T-Bone" Project

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Profile of the Texas High Speed Rail

This map shows the proposed routing of the Texas High Speed Rail project.

http://www.thsrtc.com/

Texas is one of several states hoping to construct a high speed rail line.

Proposed Route

Texas's high speed rail project, known as the Texas T-Bone, seeks to connect Dallas / Forth Worth, San Antonio, and Houston. Stops will also be built in Austin, Waco, Temple, Fort Hood, College Station, and Hillsboro. Eventually this network could connect to a wider regional network of high speed rail to allow connections to places such as Tulsa, Atlanta, and Memphis.

Cost

The most recent estimate for the cost of the Texas T-Bone rail project is $24.1 billion. Of that above total, the state is asking the federal government to pay $19.7 billion. As of this writing it is unclear from what funding source(s) the other money will come. Texas estimates operating funding requirements of over $1 billion per year; again, at this time, there is no estimation as to whether fares are expected to fully cover that amount or whether government subsidies will be required.

Passenger Projections

Texas projects that in 2020, when this high speed rail network is scheduled to open, a total of 30.4 million passengers will ride the system. This number is scheduled to grow to 51.9 million passengers in 2040. Note that this number is 10 million more than the California high speed project estimates despite the fact that the cities the California high speed project will connect (San Francisco/Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento) have a combined population twice that of the Houston / Dallas / Fort Worth / San Antonio areas. Given the controversy over the high projections of the California project, I would expect that as the Texas high speed rail project continues to develop there will be similar comments about its ridership projections being too high. The projections seem especially high when one considers that the network is scheduled to terminate at the respective cities airports rather than travel into the central city, resulting in the need to transfer to a different transportation mode for all destinations that do not involve air travel to another city.

The average ticket price is slated to be set at the mid-point between the cost of driving and the cost of flying between the cities in the project.

Benefits and Criticisms

Texas estimates that this project will create 15,600 construction jobs and up to 12,000 jobs after the network has been operational for ten years. Due to the lack of detailed planning to this point, not enough is known about the network to be able to fully discuss the benefits and drawbacks to the project.

Outlook

The outlook for the Texas High Speed Rail network is uncertain at this point because comprehensive planning has not yet begun. While the fact that the Texas network did not receive any funding in the first phase of federal high speed funding is not great news, it does not necessary mean that the project will never be built. However, this project is far behind the development of other high speed rail projects, especially California's entry. I suspect that until some kind of local funding source - whether public or private - is identified this project cannot be completed. Given the continuing economic downturn in this country and the difficulty firms are having in raising capital, it seems unlikely that the private sector will be able to come up with the kind of money required to complete this project. In addition, the anti-tax nature of Texans suggests that public financing will be difficult as well. It is also not clear that objections raised by landowners, local communities, and airlines in an earlier 1980s attempt to construct high speed rail in Texas have been overcome. Finally, one cannot overlook the political difficulties a solidly Republican state may have in receiving discretionary federal funding from a Democratic administration.

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