It’s full steam ahead for the Texas Bullet Train project – one of the largest civil projects in U.S. history – as well as another rail project in south Florida.
On December 15, the Federal Railroad Administration released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the high-speed bullet train planned for Texas.
Federal regulators not only outlined a preferred route between North Texas and Houston for the all-electric train system, they’ve identified the location of passenger stations, according to federal agencies and Texas Central, an investor-owned firm that is developing the high-speed rail line with private funding.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) caps four years of work by hundreds of experts, according to Texas Central.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says it represents an important milestone in the permitting process for the train.
The Federal Railroad Administration also, on December 15, approved a modified plan by All Aboard Florida to link Orlando to its pending Brightline service in South Florida.
The project’s 235-mile network of rail lines will connect South Florida to Central Florida by operating on an existing Florida East Coast corridor and by building new tracks to Orlando. Three new stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach are being designed by the engineering firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in association with Zyscovich Architects.
By spring 2018, All Aboard Florida expects to start construction to extend its Brightline passenger rail service to Orlando and to begin service between downtown stations in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale before expanding to Miami.
Reducing strain on infrastructure
The Texas and Florida projects are aimed at reducing pressure on existing infrastructure. In Florida, for example, the new rail project is expected to eliminate more than three million car trips from the region’s roadways each year.
“Safe, accessible and efficient regional rail systems are an important component in the transportation networks of many areas,” says Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a Dec. 15 press release. “As proposed, these rail projects would increase travel options and promote economic growth in their regions of the country.”
The Texas Bullet train will use proven technology being used by the Central Japan Railway Company, according to Texas Central.
The consulting process is moving ahead, with planning, design and pre-construction phases. Fluor Enterprises Inc. of Irving, Texas, and The Lane Construction Corp. of Chesire, Connecticut, are the preferred design and building team, with WSP USA conducting engineering work on their behalf.
Details on Draft Environmental Impact Statement
The new DEIS report reflects input from thousands of comments of Texans, including landowners, community groups, elected officials and others. An independent consultant managed by the Federal Railroad Administration solicited, compiled and reviewed the public responses and technical reviews.
Among DEIS highlights:
- The preferred route for the all-electric train mostly follows transmission lines in a utility corridor between North Texas and Houston.
- Passenger terminal sites are in Dallas, Houston and the only midway stop is in the Brazos Valley.
- The Brazos Valley Station in Grimes County will be near Texas 90 and State Highway 30. It would serve Bryan-College Station and include direct shuttle service to Texas A&M University.
- There are three options for the Houston passenger terminal. It would be in the general area south of U.S. 290, west of Loop 610 and north of Interstate 10. This is near major employment centers, including the Galleria, Medical Center, Energy Corridor and downtown.
The DEIS describes the project’s purpose and need, identifies alternatives, discloses potential environmental impacts for each reasonable alternative and identifies appropriate mitigation. The Federal Railroad Administration is providing the public an opportunity to review and comment on the DEIS over a 60-day period.
Bullet train to generate job, economic growth
The Texas project is expected to generate $36 billion in direct economic activity over the next 25 years, create more than 10,000 direct jobs per year during construction and up to 1,000 permanent jobs.
In addition, the report says that every permanent job from the high-speed rail system is expected to indirectly spur two to four jobs in supporting industries.
The railroad expects to pay more than $2.5 billion in taxes over the next 25 years to counties, cities, schools and other taxing entities along the route, according to Texas Central.
For more information on the Texas Central High-Speed Rail Project, visit fra.dot.gov/Page/P0700.