Planet Gore

Environmental Reviews Delay High-Speed Rail in Texas

You’d think the greens would eventually get together and figure out how not to oppose their own green initiatives, but alas. Not anytime soon by the looks of things:

State and regional leaders are at odds over whether a company that wants to build a 200 mph bullet train from Houston to Dallas should be required to conduct an environmental study that also includes rail stops in Fort Worth and either Arlington or Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

North Texas leaders say it’s crucial that the proposed Texas Central Railway stop not only in downtown Dallas but also in downtown Fort Worth as well as somewhere about midway between the region’s two dominant cities. That way, the high-speed rail line can pick up passengers from throughout the Metroplex instead of just the east side.

“I want it to run from Houston to Fort Worth, with a stop in Dallas,” Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes said.

But the Japanese-backed company that has proposed building the rail line, Texas Central High-Speed Railway Llc., is proposing to conduct only an environmental study from the outskirts of Houston to downtown Dallas. The Texas Department of Transportation supports that plan and is asking regional planners in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth to conduct separate environmental studies to figure out how the trains would connect in the inner cities.

In 2011, the state received a $15 million federal grant to study high-speed rail from Houston to North Texas. State officials argue that if Texas Central Railway can handle the costs of the environmental study along the mostly rural route from suburban Houston to downtown Dallas, then the grant can be spent in the metro areas.

“We’re trying to look at the best value – at what is the best way to use the money without being duplicative,” Phil Wilson, executive director of the Transportation Department, said Thursday before speaking to the 35W Coalition during an annual meeting in far north Fort Worth.

But many North Texas leaders disagree. Members of the Regional Transportation Council agreed more than a year ago that if a 200-mph train system can be built in the area, it must include at least three stations.

Splitting the project into separate environmental studies violates the spirit of that agreement, they said.

The rest here.


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