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Rail News: Passenger Rail

FRA, Texas DOT solicit public input on passenger-rail options


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) today unveiled a draft environmental impact statement containing 10 proposed routes for conventional and high-speed passenger-rail service between Oklahoma City and several Texas locations.

The proposed routes would connect Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and south Texas. The departments are accepting public comments on the 10 options and seven recommended preferred options identified by the agencies, U.S. Department of Transportation officials said in a press release.

Current passenger-rail service along the Interstate 35 corridor includes three Amtrak routes from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth (Heartland Flyer), Fort Worth to San Antonio (Texas Eagle), and Los Angeles to New Orleans through San Antonio (Sunset Limited).

The draft environmental statement addresses the relationships of the major regional markets within the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Program corridor in three geographic areas, and preferred alternatives are recommended for each section. Those geographic sections are:
• Northern: Edmond, Okla., to Dallas and Fort Worth;
• Central: Dallas and Fort Worth to San Antonio; and
• Southern: San Antonio to south Texas, which includes Corpus Christi, Brownsville, Laredo, and the Rio Grande Valley.

More than 10 million people live along the 850-mile corridor, which is expected to grow by 39 percent in Texas and 25 percent in Oklahoma City by 2035, federal officials said.

"More passenger rail service will help relieve already congested roads along the I-35 corridor and help this region manage the significant population growth on the way," said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg.

The FRA awarded TxDOT a $5.6 million grant in fiscal-year 2012 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 vehicle travel.

The departments will accept public comments for 45 days. In addition, public hearings on the draft environmental statement will be held Aug. 9 in Laredo, Austin and Arlington, Texas.

The final environmental impact statement is projected to be released by early next year.