Amtrak’s Push to Resurrect the Texas Central Bullet Train

The United States continues to lack genuine high-speed rail options despite years of research and analysis.

Since 1987, efforts have been made to introduce bullet train service to Texas. The most recent attempt began in 2014 when a group called Texas Central initiated plans to connect Dallas to Houston with a bullet train traveling over 200 miles per hour, reducing travel time from a three-and-a-half hour drive to a 90-minute train ride.

“You cannot do that in a car,” emphasized Andy Byford, senior vice president of high-speed rail programs at Amtrak. “You cannot do that if you fly if you factor in going to the airport, going through security, getting back in from the airport at the other end.”

Amtrak's Push to Resurrect the Texas Central Bullet Train
Despite hurdles, the Texas Central project gained support from Japan and the U.S. government. (Credits: Amtrak)

Byford joins a chorus of U.S. policy experts advocating for expanded high-speed rail connections across the country. In 2023, Amtrak reignited hopes for the bullet train in the Texas Triangle by expressing interest in broadening its collaboration with Texas Central.

This region, encompassing the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and Houston, stands as one of the largest population hubs in the nation.

“If you don’t build high-speed rail between Dallas and Houston, then you only have two options,” remarked Congressman Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a former managing director at Texas Central.

“You can either expand the airport or expand the highway. It’s not going to decrease the travel time between those cities. It’s still going to take at least three hours to get between Dallas and Houston.”

Local experts highlighted the strain on Texas roads due to the growing population, resulting in traffic congestion and safety concerns.

“Our transportation system is just really trying to keep up with our population growth,” explained Brianne Glover, senior research scientist at Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute. “Commuters experience somewhere around 40 hours of delay each year.”

The Texas Central project has faced repeated delays as backers navigate regulatory hurdles, including environmental reviews and property rights disputes.

In 2022, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed Texas Central’s status as a public interurban electric railway company, granting it eminent domain powers.

“When I was notified by my nephew through an article about eminent domain, I was absolutely shocked,” shared Jody Berry, a Dallas-based farmer opposed to the Texas Central initiative. The proposed rail alignment crosses Morney-Berry Farm, which has been in Berry’s family for generations.

“Finding out that the high-speed rail could potentially go through our property has made it very difficult for me to sleep,” Berry added.

The project’s estimated cost stands at least at $33.6 billion, according to a March 2023 estimate from the Reason Foundation.

Similar high-speed rail projects worldwide have encountered significant cost overruns during development, including Japan’s Tokaido Shinkansen system, which the Texas route aims to leverage.

Amtrak's Push to Resurrect the Texas Central Bullet Train
Amtrak collaborates with Texas Central, boosting hopes for high-speed rail in the region. (Credits: Amtrak)

The Texas effort has garnered support from Japanese firms and the U.S. government. In 2018, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation issued a $300 million loan for the project.

Additionally, Texas Central received a Corridor ID program grant in late 2023 to explore potential partnerships with Amtrak.

With a historic $66 billion commitment to passenger rail, the Biden administration presents a significant opportunity to advance high-speed rail systems.

However, uncertainties linger, exemplified by the California project connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco, which saw its estimated cost balloon from $33 billion to over $100 billion amid delays and opposition from rural landowners.

“The Biden Administration’s aspirations for high-speed rail fail to account for several realities, including lack of customer demand, economic viability, and impact on existing rail infrastructure,” remarked Rep.

Troy Nehls, R-Texas, during a November 2023 congressional hearing on intercity passenger rail systems.

Despite repeated requests, the backers of Texas Central declined to comment on the project’s progress and expected completion date.

Sajda Parveen
Sajda Parveen
Sajda Praveen is a market expert. She has over 6 years of experience in the field and she shares her expertise with readers. You can reach out to her at [email protected]
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