DALLAS — With $15 million in federal grants for a high-speed rail study, Texas officials see the state as well-positioned for developing a Houston-to-Dallas corridor.
Though not as far along in planning as some other states, the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, last fall passed a plan that calls for the study of high-speed rail routes between Houston and Dallas along Interstate 45, between Houston and Austin along U.S. 290, and between Oklahoma City and South Texas.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said the plan was key to the state’s winning the $15 million grant.
The Houston-Dallas corridor has the advantage of existing rail lines and support from Fort Worth-based Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, which owns the tracks.
The existing rail corridor means easier right-of-ways, a major obstacle to any new transportation project. Texas was one of 15 states receiving a share of the $2 billion rejected by Florida for a high-speed rail line between Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Orlando.
Florida’s freshman Republican governor, Rick Scott, said the rail line would cost the state too much money, and Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla., called the plan “Soviet-style.”
While GOP governors in other states also rejected the federal grants, Texas’ Rick Perry, a Republican and staunch opponent of federal government involvement in his state, will not have the option of rejecting the funding.
However, Bill Glavin, TxDOT’s rail division director, spoke favorably about the grant, saying the funding is crucial to advancing high-speed rail projects in the state.
“Texas is fortunate to be selected for this award,” he said in a prepared statement. “Money is in short supply and competition is tough. We really appreciate the funding that does come our way.”
So far, Texas has received $53 million in federal rail funds, including $34 million for a project known as Fort Worth Tower 55 for improvements to ease congestion and improve safety, and a $5.6 million planning grant for fast rail on the corridor connecting Oklahoma City and South Texas.
State and local officials in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have been working on plans that would tie into a high-speed rail corridor in the area.
About $7 million from the 2009 appropriations bill allowed for additional track along a portion of the Trinity Rail Express in Fort Worth. Texas also received $2 million for projects on the state-owned South Orient Railroad in West Texas.
TxDOT originally requested around $43 million for two projects, the Fort Worth-to-Houston corridor and safety improvements on the Trinity Rail Express corridor between Dallas Union Station and the Texas and Pacific Station in Fort Worth.