Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Announces Critical Step Forward in the Development of High-Speed Rail in South Texas

Two South Texas Passenger Rail Routes selected by Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and Texas Department of Transportation for further analysis.

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WASHINGTON, July 27, 2016 | Rafael Benavides ((956)725-0639) | comments

Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX28) today announced the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)’s release of 10 service and route options for high-speed passenger rail service connecting Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Laredo, and South Texas. The options are evaluated in the (Tier 1) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).  This is a key step forward on a project Congressman Cuellar has been working on since 2008.

This study evaluated the feasibility of developing passenger rail service for the 850-mile north-south corridor from Oklahoma City to South Texas. The study is separated into three segments:

•             Northern Section: Oklahoma City to Dallas and Fort Worth;

•             Central Section: Dallas and Fort Worth to San Antonio;

•             Southern Section: San Antonio to South Texas. 

The goal of the study was to identify routes that could meet future intercity travel demands, improve rail facilities, reduce journey times and improve connections with regional public transit service.  In 2008, Congressman Cuellar authored an amendment to H.R. 6003, the "Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, which included South Texas in this study. In fiscal year 2012, FRA awarded a $5.6 million grant to TxDOT to fund a study of new and improved passenger rail service to meet future intercity travel demand, improve rail facilities, reduce travel times, and improve connections with regional public transit services as an alternative to bus, plane, and private auto travel. 

This DEIS, a planning level study, took into account the potential effects establishing a passenger rail could have on environmental, economic, and social resources, as well as the impact on travel demand and transportation. Based on these analyses TxDOT selected preferred routes and service types, conventional rail, higher-speed rail, or high-speed rail, for each section.  In South Texas, two routes were selected for further study. The first route would begin in San Antonio and travel south on a new alignment outside existing transportation corridors to a station near the Laredo-Columbia Solidarity Bridge, then cross on a new railway bridge to join a new rail line which would continue to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. This route has the potential for high-speed rail, operated at top speeds of 180-220 mph . (See Alternative S6 on attached map).  The second route would begin in San Antonio and travel southeast to Alice. At Alice, the route would divide into three legs. The first leg would travel to San Diego, Texas; then to the Laredo area. The second leg would travel south along abandoned railroad tracks to McAllen and east to Harlingen and Brownsville. The third leg would travel east along the KCS Railway to Corpus Christi. This route has the potential for Higher-speed rail and would be operated at top speeds of up to 110 to 125 mph (See Alternative S4 on attached map)

Following the conclusion of this Tier 1 study, a developer could conduct a tier 2 study for the preferred routes.  A tier 2 study would provide project-level analyses, detailed design, alignments and refine cost estimates.  These studies will give investors the information necessary to determine if a passenger rail is a worthy investment.  A Record of Decision on a Tier 2 would allow the developer (State or Private) to begin final design, construction and operation of the service.

"This is a critical step forward for high-speed rail linking major trade and energy centers in South Texas with metropolitan areas further north, something I have long-supported, said Congressman Henry Cuellar. This study outlines the routes that FRA and TxDOT consider high speed rail is environmentally feasible, and opens the door for the involvement of investors in the development of high-speed rail.  It is my hope that this project will continue moving forward and that we will soon see high-speed rail not only from Oklahoma City to South Texas, but that Texans will eventually have the ability to travel by rail from San Antonio to Mexico.”

More than 10 million people currently live along the 850-mile corridor, which is expected to grow by 39 percent in Texas by 2035.  As a state with some of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation, spread out over hundreds of miles, Texas is now in high demand for alternative modes of transportation.  Since the majority of the state’s population is centered in the eastern half of state, along I-35 stretching into Oklahoma City, the highways have experienced increased congestion.

The DEIS study is now available for public review and comment through August 29, 2016, providing agencies and members of the public the opportunity to review the document, attend public hearings, and provide feedback. A public hearing will be held in Laredo on August 9, 2016 at 5:30pm in TxDOT Laredo District Office, 1817 Bob Bullock Loop, Laredo, TX 78043.  TxDOT and FRA will take into account public input and subsequently issue a Final EIS and Record of Decision.  Here is a link to the study.  The Final EIS is projected to be released by early 2017.  

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