Amtrak Studies Austin-San Antonio Service

Amtrak has agreed to study launching a commuter rail service between San Antonio and Austin, Texas, that would ease highway congestion between the two cities.

Amtrak logoTexas Public Radio reported that officials in the two cities turned to Amtrak after a regional rail commuter plan known as the Lone Star Rail project collapsed.

At the request of the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Amtrak is studying ridership and revenue potential and how much it would cost to upgrade the Union Pacific line between the two cities, which are 80 miles apart.

The goal would be to offer a service that could average 90 miles per hour and duplicate what Lone Star Rail would have provided.

That would be a train leaving every 30 minutes during peak travel times. The service would begin in South San Antonio and terminate at Georgetown outside of Austin.

Much of this route is now served by Amtrak’s Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Transportation officials say the commute on Interstate 35 between the two cities take two and a half hours.

The Amtrak study is expected to be completed by the middle of 2017.

San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor said the study is projected to cost $100,000 on the study.  Capital for track improvement and operations would come mostly from private investors.

If financing can be lined up, the service could be implemented in three to five years.

San Antonio leaders are also eyeing another rail service that would link their city with Monterrey, Mexico, via Laredo, Texas.

The concept is for high-speed rail that would operate at a top speed of 250 miles per hour making the trip in two hours.

Laredo Congressman Henry Cuellar insists that the proposal is not just a pipe dream. He said he’s met with Mexican officials, federal and state transportation officials, and private investors who would consider financing the project.

“You connect San Antonio’s large population, Laredo and, of course, Monterrey with 4.5 million individuals,” Cuellar said. “Entities like Sea World (in San Antonio), when I talk to them they’re all excited, because that means potentially a new base of customers.”

Amtrak once linked San Antonio and Laredoe with its Chicago-Laredo Inter-American. which was discontinued south of San Antonio on Oct. 1, 1981, and renamed the Eagle between San Antonio and Chicago.

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