ESTIMATED COST: $12 BILLION

Rail developer outlines high-speed project

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If you’re lucky and the traffic isn’t too bad, you can drive from Dallas to Houston in about four hours. With a ticket to ride on a brand-new bullet train, you could make the trip in 90 minutes.

Texas Central, a private Texas-based company, wants to make this a real possibility by building a high-speed 240-mile rail line between DFW and Houston in the near future.

Holly Reed, Texas Central managing director of external affairs, spoke to the Kilgore Rotary Club on Wednesday about the advantages a futuristic rail system could bring to the Lone Star State.

“It is exciting because it is the first true high-speed train in the United States and I would join the project not just for what it is but for how it’s being done, which is, it’s not a government project. It will take no federal grant money, no state appropriations."

The project began, Reed said, by looking at 97 pairs of cities to determine which area would benefit the most from a high-speed rail system. A DFW-Houston line was proposed because these two cities are among the largest and most densely populated in the nation.

Approximately 14 million people travel between the cities each year and traffic congestion between them has been increasing over the last few years, according to Texas Central. Populations in these metropolitan areas are expected to double in the next 20 years and the high-speed train system is intended to give these commuters a fast, safe and efficient mode of travel to use when the highways get bogged down with traffic.

Reed says the project will be funded by independent investors who have already pledged a great deal of capital towards the estimated total project cost of $12 billion.

“We announced that $75 million capital raise all from Texas entrepreneurs and individuals,” Reed said. “The majority owners of the project are all Texas individuals.”

The train itself would be purchased from Japan, Reed explained, because no American companies produce them. The train would be powered by electromagnetism and the railway would, at times, be elevated to allow cars, people and animals to pass underneath. The rail line would have no rail crossings and would not interfere with motor traffic.

The Shinkansen bullet trains in Japan, similar to the ones planned for use in the Texas project, have operated for over 50 years with zero crashes, injuries or fatalities. They also are six times more efficient than car travel and produce one-twelfth the carbon emissions of a commercial jet.

The project could have a big benefit for the Texas economy and jobs, Reed said.

“We will be creating a brand new industry in the United States, based right here in Texas. We’ll put a lot of people to work as we do that,” Reed said.

Reed said the project will create 10,000 temporary jobs during each year of its five-year construction and an estimated 1,000 new high-skilled permanent jobs upon completion.

The project – which will connect with Amtrak, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and airports – is projected to have a $36 billion economic impact during its first 25 years of operation.

Reed said if the project could obtain the permits needed from the state, construction of the train system could begin as early as next year. The project got a major clearance in 2017 when the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration signed off on its environmental impact statement and Reed said about a third of the landowners who have property on the planned rail route have successfully negotiated options contracts with Texas Central.

During a Q&A, Rev. Jayson Galler asked why, as an East Texas resident, he should care about the project.

Reed replied the project would require vast amounts of concrete, steel and skilled workers from across the state and some of those resources could come from the East Texas area. Rotarian Gordon Reed asked how fast the train would travel.

“We’ll probably start at about 187 miles per hour and amp up to 205. Over time, as technology has changed, they’ve gotten faster and faster,” Reed replied.

During her presentation, Reed said the project could include outreach to high schools and community colleges to make sure students were studying trades which could prepare them for a career on the new train line. Afterwards, she elaborated on the importance of hiring skilled workers from all over the state, including East Texas.

“We will need workers from all different kinds of trades, from all different management skills, engineering skills,” Reed said. “So all the way across the spectrum of employment. Today we’re working with a lot of environmental engineers, a lot of construction engineers, civil engineers, but we’ve also got a lot of training to do to get welders, electricians, everything from that high end to construction managers who are going to manage traffic and logistics.”

Reed also explained Kilgore residents and people in East Texas could use the rail system because it will be interconnected with existing rail systems and have stops at airports and transportation hubs in DFW and Houston.

To learn more about the project, visit www.TexasCentral.com or text TRAIN to 52886.

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