Grand Prairie—Over the past year, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) has spearheaded the initial phase of a study to determine if high-speed rail between Dallas and Fort Worth is feasible.
Phase One of that project is now complete. The phase entailed holding over 130 public meetings that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were done virtually and determined which types of rail systems would work best and formulated potential routes between the cities.
NCTCOG representatives presented the results of Phase One at open houses the week of Oct. 12. The first open house was hosted at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, the second in Fort Worth, another in West Dallas and the final one at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
“We’re wrapping up Phase One of our study where we were looking at all the alternatives,” Amanda Wilson, program manager for NCTCOG, said. “Due to the pandemic, we had all our public meetings virtually. We did have really good participation. While they were online, we had call-in options and e-mailed people packets if they wanted information.We had options if people had no access to Internet. This is a wrap-up of everything we did in those public meetings.”
Ian Bryant is a senior transportation planner and project manager for HNTB, an American infrastructure design firm partnering with NCTCOG on this project.
“We were looking to accomplish that in a year, and we have,” Bryant said. “We’re getting set up to go into Phase Two, which will be about a two-year process.”
Phase One evaluated 43 potential routes and reduced that list to 10: seven along Interstate 30 and three along State Highway 180. The study, which began in May 2020 and is expected to take three years to complete, also determined three modes: high-speed rail, maglev, and hyperloop, will be considered.Goals of the study are to analyze potential routes, evaluate potential vehicles, formulate operation and service plans, do preliminary engineering work, and compile environmental documentation.
High-speed rail, which has been in use in Asia and Europe for years, has trains reaching 250 miles per hour and needing 3 to 30 minutes between trains arriving.
Maglev, short for magnetic elevation, is currently used in China, Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Maglev trains can travel over 300 miles per hour and need 15-20 minutes between stops.
The final method, hyperloop, has yet to be implemented anywhere in the world and is still in the testing phase. However, this revolutionary method where the train travels in a tube, sees trains travel at over 650 MPH, needing just two minutes between trains, accommodating on-demand scheduling, and being suitable for both passenger travel and hauling cargo.
Many DFW residents want to know how this project differs from other current rail transportation in the region like the Trinity Railway Express between Dallas and Fort Worth or the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail.
“This is higher speed, and it’s not going to have as many stops,” Wilson said. “People using it to go to work are still going to use those traditional commuter rails. This is more of a longer-route option.”
In fact, the proposed route would have only two stations, one in Fort Worth and another in Dallas. However, a third stop in the Arlington Entertainment District has been proposed and is being evaluated.Phase Two of the study will include public scoping meetings, performing field studies, and drafting a document for the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) for review. Without approval of the NEPA document, the project cannot move forward.
Starting construction is still at least several years away, but once started, construction is expected to take at least eight years. Once completed, the system should last 50 years or more.
Events like these open houses give NCTCOG and its partners an opportunity to get the word out about this study to the public and show them how a rail project between the two cities could work.
“[Our feedback has been] very positive. Obviously, there are concerns about how it could potentially impact individual neighborhoods,” Bryant said. “Those are some of the other stakeholders we’ve talked to, neighborhood organizations, HOAs.
“[We’ve received] generally, very good feedback. The feedback we got was we prefer [a route along] I-30. There’s much less potential residential impact there and that’s what our analysis showed as well. It’s been very positive.”