Texas Central Partners spoke about plans for a new high-speed railway connecting Dallas and Houston on Thursday, March 9th at a luncheon at the Park City Club in Dallas.
The luncheon was hosted by the North Texas CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) Chapter. Tim Keith, president of Texas Central Partners, spoke to a group of investors and real estate professionals about the project.
The 240-mile long railway will enable passengers to travel from Dallas to Houston in under 90 minutes, utilizing a state-of-the-art bullet train that can travel up to 205 miles per hour. The trains will depart every 30 minutes, and the railway will have stations in downtown Dallas and downtown Houston, along with a third station being planned for Grimes County to service Texas A&M students.
Although the train will be considered public transportation, Keith stressed that taxpayers will not be footing the bill for the railway. Instead, the rail will be funded entirely through private capital and investors.
“As an entrepreneurial sponsor, we’re private,” Keith said. “We’re going to be an infrastructure company that pays taxes. No other road system or any other public mode of transport pays taxes.
“I like to say we’re infrastructure funding any projects the leaders of the communities collecting taxes need to fund, whether it be social services, housing, shelters for homeless families, animal shelters or new roads in other areas. It’s quite unique in that we’ll be helping generate economic impact on a permanent basis all over the place.”
Currently, about 14 million people travel from Dallas to Houston every year, and over 90% of those travel by car. With this railway, Keith said he hopes to offer those travelers a more convenient travel option, especially as cities continue to grow and highway travel becomes more and more crowded.
“One of the reasons we need that choice is because congestion will continue to increase,” Keith said. “As we grow, congestion is forecasted to impact travel speed, travel times and other factors. In fact, the average travel time forecasts an increase [over the next twenty years] from four hours driving from Houston to Dallas to six hours.”
Keith added that Texas Central aims to provide a “reliable, convenient, comfortable and productive” travel experience for all of its passengers.
At this point, the railway is anticipated to begin construction at the earliest next year. However, there are still several legislative issues the railway must first contend.
Rebecca Cowle, the outreach manager for Texas Central Partners, explained major pieces of legislation the railway needs to officially begin construction.
“The two main pieces of regulatory approval we need are…the environmental impact statement and then all of the safety and technical approvals,” Cowle said. “[We need] the environmental, obviously, to make sure it’s not environmentally invasive, and they’re examining anything and everything under that environmental umbrella. It’s not just flora and fauna, it’s the human environment: air quality, noise pollution, everything.”
Keith spoke about the environmental impacts, primarily how they affect smaller communities as well as farm and ranch lands between the two metropolises.
“We’ll enter those communities and create infrastructure and we’ll work in our design to not only accommodate existing public roads, but also future roads as they have been identified by the planners in those communities,” he said. “But also, in our design of the viaduct, the spans are wider than the average county road, so the more spans we have and the more viaducts we build, the more flexibility those communities will have.”
Of major importance, Cowle added, would be safety and technical regulations, especially since the railway is the first of its kind in the country.
“Currently in the United States, there are no trains that are capable of going 205 miles per hour,” she said. “There’s not a rulebook on how to regulate a train that goes 205 miles per hour. They’re going through and doing all of those technical regulatory approvals needed for a project like this in order to occur. You want it to be regulated by someone to make sure it’s as safe for the consumer as possible.”
Currently there are no plans to include routes to other cities such as Austin or San Antonio. However, Keith said that if the Dallas/Houston route proves successful, the railway could possibly expand to include other cities across Texas. “Our goal is to make sure, as a transportation company, not only do North Texans and Houstonians move well, but also the communities throughout the whole area continue to move well.”