Proposed Houston-To-Dallas High-Speed Rail Will Pump Hundreds Of Millions Into Local Governments
The populations of Dallas and Houston are projected to roughly double by 2035. Auto traffic between the cities will increase by 100%, pushing the four-hour journey close to six hours, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Texas Central wants to get you there in less than 90 minutes.
The project would move passengers from Houston to Dallas in less than 90 minutes via the N700-I Bullet Train system currently in use between Osaka and Tokyo. The Tokaido Shinkansen has been in operation since 1964, now in its fifth generation of trains. The Japan Railway Co operates 323 high-speed trains transporting nearly half a million passengers daily. Remarkably, in more than 50 years, the system has not had a single loss-of-life accident.
Because Texas Central is a private company, its property and infrastructure is taxable, unlike tax-funded rail lines or highways. That means the company will have to pay property taxes to cities, school districts and counties for the entire length of its track between the two metropolitan areas.
When the project is completed, the railway would become the largest taxpayer in nearly every area it passes through. Texas Central expects to pay $2.5B in taxes over the next 25 years. That impact is profound: new schools, more firefighters, better roads. The influx of that much tax revenue to small towns is monumental. Texas Central would also train and outfit local emergency responders in case of an incident along the track.
The impact would be immediately felt by the state, providing 40,000 jobs over its four years of construction with an additional 1,000 permanent jobs operating the railway. The economic impact report from Texas Central estimates $36B of direct and indirect economic benefit to the state over the next 25 years.
Any project of this size will have plenty of detractors. According to Texans Against High-Speed Rail, of the 11 counties involved, nine of them oppose the railway. The railway only plans on having three stops: Dallas (just south of the convention center), Houston (near 290 and 610), and somewhere near Huntsville/College Station. Opponents say not stopping in all the towns along the way means residents will have to put up with the noise, pollution and eyesore for nothing.
At a discussion hosted by CoreNet Houston, Texas Central executive director David Hagy says the noise of a bullet train is much different than most trains. It's only three to six seconds of quick whooshing noise followed by silence.
The train will run on electricity, helping the environment by keeping cars off the road. High-speed rail uses an eighth of the energy per seat and expends 1/12th of the carbon per passenger mile compared to a typical commercial jet. Much of the track will be elevated, minimizing the impact on wildlife and natural environments. The full environmental impact study is expected to be released this summer.
The project is a huge eminent domain issue. Texas is big on private property rights. That factor goes both ways. While the property owners of the nearly 3,000 acres needed to build have rights, a private enterprise can still use eminent domain.
Federal regulators are still determining the exact route. David says Texas Central is dedicated to being a responsible corporate citizen and good neighbor. If private land is needed, he says the acquisitions will be very generous to avoid any conflict. Lawyers get expensive quickly. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.