The Texas Bullet Train finally has a planned route. The Federal Railroad Administration approved a path for the train as part of a draft Environmental Impact Statement that was released last Friday. The route doesn’t affect the cities at either end of the route, but the path was the subject of consternation among rural counties that pushed back against the bullet train project during the last legislative session.
According to the Texas Tribune, there aren’t many surprises in the announced route. It skirts further west than the other proposed routes, and it includes plans for a station located in between Huntsville and College Station. There are still three potential Houston stations, all on the outer edge of the city, but Dallas will still have a downtown terminal. As I mentioned last week, that disconnect between one urban station and another suburban station creates a challenge in my mind in terms of how riders will use the system — whether or not it will feed future passengers into multi-modal urban transit systems, or connect two car-rental-facility-dependent stations.
Perhaps the biggest news here is that, despite suggestions to the contrary, work on the EIS and the engineering and construction of the high-speed rail line continue to move forward. Now that the route has been finalized, there will be a public process in the early part of the year to gather feedback about the route. There may be some tweaks to the route after that, but nothing major is expected. At a council briefing last month, Texas Central Partners, the private company developing the rail line, said it still plans to break ground in late-2018 or early-2019 with operations estimated to start in 2023.