Just think: Dallas to Houston or Houston to Dallas in less than 90 minutes at 200+ mph while you kick back and just enjoy the ride. The “bullet” train’s arrival is picking up speed, and it will (if it comes in) be a boon to both business travelers and those making the jaunt for pleasure.
Japan has one, so why not Texas? Linking Tokyo and Osaka, Japan’s Tokaido Shinkansen high-speed rail line, a “bullet” train, averages 179 daily runs between the two cities – 343 miles in 2 hours and 22 minutes at an average of 143 mph. But Japan is mountainous and densely populated, so the Texas bullet train will be faster and better . . . if it actually makes it off the drawing board.
This plan for a Texas bullet train may actually be feasible. A route has been mapped out, concept plans for a station in Dallas drawn up, and more than $100 million raised from investors. In addition, it has received the needed environmental green light from the Federal Railroad Commission. It seems, then, that this high-speed railway is the likeliest of all those proposed across the country to make it into operation and be economically viable at the same time.
Still, the soonest it could be in operation would be 20 years from now, and the total cost would be at least $16 billion. But plans are going forward.
For example, the Federal Railroad Administration has already selected a route with the least environmental and adverse business-related impact. And just recently, Texas Central unveiled concept plans for a multi-level, multi-platform Dallas station on a 60-acre plot. Further, Texas Central has now brought Bechtel – a global engineering firm with the completion of 300 major train and subway projects under its belt – on board to move toward the anticipated 2019 groundbreaking. So it’s definitely picking up speed.
There are concerns and hurdles to overcome, though. The major one has to do with land.
The new Texas bullet train will have to pass through private, rural land along its proposed route. That, of course, involves the issue of eminent domain. And so far, Texas has declined to legislate on this sticky issue.
Another concern is the fear that the passenger numbers just won’t be there because Texas is far less densely populated than Japan. Also, some critics claim the rail line won’t be attractive to business commuters because the stops will be too few.
And then there’s money. For what has been called the “largest civil engineering project in United States history,” one that will require 3.5 times the amount of concrete used in the Hoover Dam, there just isn’t public funding available on that scale. So investors in Texas Central are proposing financing entirely from private sources, which is a high hurdle indeed.
The number-one benefit, of course, is the speed and the resulting travel-time savings at 90 minutes or under. A flight may take only one hour, but you have to add in another two hours or so for check-in, security, boarding, and assorted delays. And the drive will take you four hours at least, even when weather and traffic conditions are favorable.
Much of the line will be elevated so that environmental impact will be held to a minimum. It will also help to reduce interstate traffic between Dallas and Houston, thus making the drive safer and easier for those who choose to stay on the road.
And there are some significant potential economic benefits.
Construction of the rail line will create thousands of jobs – estimates are that it will take at least 10,000 workers for construction tasks alone. The Dallas station will almost certainly increase property values in the area. Finally, it will bring a brand-spanking-new high-tech industry – one that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country – right here to Texas.
So . . . will the Texas bullet train speed into reality? That is yet to be seen, but it’s looking more likely. And if it does, that will be one more feather in the hat Texas proudly wears.