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Texas advocates renew push for high-speed rail

I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about the Texas “T-Bone” HSR plan lately, both in the news outlets and on visits to this blog. Looks like groups such as Texas Rail Advocates and The Texas High-Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation are making a publicity push in light of what will hopefully be a more friendly federal environment. There’s discussion of both high-speed-lite 110mph trains and “bullet train” HSR. Looks like it’s catching some attention. Gov. Rick Perry seems to be open to the idea, and there’s some tangible legislation that could help get the ball rolling. From the Houston Chronicle:

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee chairman, already has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow high-speed rail facilities to be exempt from property taxes. It would require a two-thirds vote of lawmakers and voter approval.

Carona said his proposed amendment has a good chance of passing: “I think high speed rail is a near-term reality for this state.”

But why do advocates think that this can succeed now when a similar proposal was squashed by the airlines in the 1990’s? From the Star-Telegram:

But Southwest and Fort Worth-based American Airlines now see the benefit of high-speed rail, Dallas transportation consultant David Dean said.

“The old, post-World War II model of sending planes 250, 300 miles to collect passengers and bring them to central hubs . . . is no longer feasible,” Dean said. “The short-haul flights are dropping like flies in the United States. They’re depending upon passengers to find their own way to the airport. If you have high-speed rail . . . bringing potentially 16 million passengers to your central airports, it becomes a collection system for them. If the rail comes to the airport, they will support it because it becomes a matter of convenience.”

Right now it looks like this is mostly talk, but talk is precisely what we need to get started with. With the airlines declining and a federal administration that is, at least on paper, amenable to infrastructure projects and a greener economy, states need to start developing their proposals right now.

Filed under: United States High Speed Rail, , , , ,

Dallas-Ft. Worth ready to move ahead with commuter rail

Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas’s largest metropolitan area, is getting ready to put a 250 mile commuter rail plan to voters. In an interesting move, lawmakers are proposing that each of the metroplex’s counties choose its own method of paying for the plan from a pre-determined list.

Officials from cities, counties and transit agencies spent about an hour explaining the need for rail, as well as the work done in the past six months with Texas Instruments and other powerful companies that had opposed the plan.

In a nod to those businesses, planners have abandoned a proposal to raise the state’s 8.25 percent sales-tax cap and are instead proposing that Metroplex counties be given a “menu” of taxes and fees to choose from — possibly including vehicle registration fees more than double today’s rate.

Texas might seem like an unlikely place to see progressive transportation policies, but the state has a history with rail transit. The original Texas TGV high-speed rail system was squashed by Southwest Airlines in the mid-90’s (ironically, American and Continental are now members of the new HSR corporation there) and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has been rapdily growing its modern light-rail system (currently operating at capacity, according to the article).

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, , , ,

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