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SAN ANTONIO BUSINESS JOURNAL: Texas Congressman: San Antonio-Austin high-speed rail not dead

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San Antonio, August 12, 2016 | comments

A 17-1 vote by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization may have put the brakes on a proposed passenger rail project intended to improve mobility between San Antonio and Austin, but at least one federal lawmaker believes an alternate plan to connect the two metro areas by high-speed rail could gain more traction.

The Lone Star Rail District has decided to suspend work at least temporarily on the Environmental Impact Statement for its proposed LSTAR project, which would link several cities along the I-35 Corridor — including San Antonio and Austin. That decision was prompted by CAMPO’s vote to pull the proposed LSTAR project from its long-term plan.

Although work on the EIS has been halted pending discussions between the Lone Star Rail District and its co-lead agencies — the Federal Highway Administration and Texas Department of Transportation — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, contends there is still hope for high-speed passenger rail in San Antonio and South Texas.

Cuellar is pushing a plan eight years in the making that would connect San Antonio with Laredo and Monterrey, Mexico, to the South, as well as Austin, Dallas and Oklahoma City to the north.

I reported late last month that the Federal Railroad Administration and TxDOT have released 10 route options for such a high-speed passenger rail plan. Those options were evaluated as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) separate from the LSTAR project.

Cuellar, well aware that the LSTAR project may be on life support now, remains optimistic this alternate rail plan will advance. He and other supporters believe such a project would address intercity travel demands, reduce travel times and improve connections with regional public transit services.

“I believe there is great interest across South Texas for a more modern form of transportation, like high-speed passenger rail, to ease congestion on our highways and have more mobility for tourism and other business,” Cuellar said.

Such a project will likely require a buy in from the private sector.

“Ultimately, we want this to be a developer-driven project,” Cuellar said.

While TxDOT spokeswoman Becky Ozuna warns that the potential project is still in the study phase, Cuellar is hopeful concerns about the fate of the LSTAR project could give this alternate rail plan more momentum.
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