Posts Tagged ‘High-speed rail’

Texas Central Beats Back Adversaries in Legislature

May 18, 2019

Texas Central has managed to turn back 11 bills that were introduced into the Texas legislature during the current session that had been designed to delay or thwart its plans to develop a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston.

Most of the bills had been introduced on behalf of landowners located next to the proposed right of way.

However, Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody told Trains magazine that there was still a chance that an amendment or rider detrimental to the interests of Texas Central could be attached to a bill before the legislature ends its session on May 27.

One such rider has already been struck from a budget bill that would have banned the Texas Department of Transportation from coordinating with Texas Central.

Some land owners have expressed fear that Texas Central might use eminent domain laws to condemn property, an authority granted by Texas law for purposes of developing highways, railroads, and such public utilities as power lines and pipelines.

Some Texas Central opponents have argued that TC is not yet a railroad because it doesn’t yet operate any trains.

A draft environmental impact statement has noted that 52 percent of the Texas Central right of way will be adjacent to power line corridors.

The proposed high-speed rail operator continues to determine the route it will take, including the process of negotiating and signing deals with property owners.

The company has said it has more than 30 percent of its needed parcels of land under an option contract.

Much of the Texas Central right of way will be elevated and built on earthen berms or viaducts.

In an unrelated matter, Texas Central recently released an updated ridership study that found more more than 6 million passengers are expected to rider TC trains by 2029.

Ridership is expected to reach 13 million by 2050. The latest study was conducted by L.E.K. Consulting and updated a study it conducted in 2016.

The study also found that TC trains will save 60 to 90 minutes per trip between Houston and Dallas and that 72 percent of frequent travelers between the two metropolitan areas who responded said they “probably” or “definitely” would take the train.

Of those surveyed, 85 percent said they had traveled between Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in the past year.

The Houston-North Texas “super economy” is expected to grow by 1.5 percent per year to 2050, nearly twice the U.S. national average.

California High-Speed Project Costs Goes Up

May 1, 2019

The bill to complete the middle segment of California’s high-speed rail line has gone up by another $1.8 billion.

News reports indicate that a draft of an internal California High Speed Rail Authority report found the project to build 119 miles between Madera and Wasco will be $12.4 billion.

The increases include $477 million for cost increases, $362 million for increases in the scope of the project, and $1 billion for contingencies,

The original plan had been to build between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but earlier this year Gov. Gavin Newsom scaled that back to 19 miles between Bakersfield and Merced in the Central Valley.

Work has already begun on the project. Completing the complete Central Valley segment is expected to cost $20.4 billion.

Toledo Eyes High-Speed Rail Study

April 24, 2019

Some members of the city council in Toledo, Ohio, are pushing a high-speed system that would connect their city with Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Known as the “T” for its shape, the network would have an 86-mile route between Toledo and the Detroit airport with a branch between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

The council members are seeking a study of the T, which could have trains traveling as far as 110 mph.

The city is also eyeing studies of a network that would have a top speed of 80 mph.

Those favoring the network have cited its potential to stimulate long-term economic development and reduce carbon emissions.

Texas House Committee Hears Anti-Rail Bills

April 24, 2019

Eleven bills designed to stymie development of the proposed Texas Central high-speed rail project have been considered by a transportation committee of the Texas House.

Although none of the bills has yet to receive a committee vote that might occur later.

Representatives of Texas Central spoke against the bills at a hearing. Also opposing the legislation were the North Central Texas Council of Governments and members of various local and regional businesses and advocacy groups.

Rail advocates say that many of the bills are repeats of bills that failed during the 2017 legislative session.

They include proposals to require trains to be elevated at least 40 feet above ground level, mandating that the technology used conforms to that of existing railroads, allow a county commissioners court to stop a project if permission is not granted for access to a county road, banning the use of private activity bonds for a high-speed rail project that runs contrary to other transportation efforts, imposing rules that would it make it difficult or impossible to survey land for a rail project; setting up rules concerning bonds and options on land needed for construction, and forcing a route to be dismantled and the land put back into its original condition in the event of a railroad going bankrupt.

Texas Congressmen Back High-Speed Plan

April 10, 2019

The proposed high-speed rail line being developed in Texas has drawn support from some members of the state’s congressional delegation.

U.S. Reps. Colin Allred (D-Texas) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) led a bipartisan group in support of the proposed project by Texas Central to build a Dallas-Houston high-speed rail line.

Those members of Congress have written to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in support of the proposed rail line.

Also signing the letter were U.S. Reps. John Carter (R), Lizzie Fletcher (D), Sylvia Garcia (D), Lance Gooden (R), Kay Granger (R), Sheila Jackson Lee (D), Van Taylor (R) and Roger Williams (R).

Texas Central Seeking STB Hearing

March 30, 2019

Would-be high-speed operator Texas Central is asking the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to hold a public hearing on the question of whether the agency has jurisdiction over the proposed Dallas-Houston rail line.

Opponents of the project have sought to block it by arguing that the STB does not have jurisdiction.

In its brief presented to the STB, Texas Central has asked the agency to interpret its jurisdiction over high speed rail and whether that will  will establish a significant precedent as additional high-speed rail projects are developed in the United States.

Texas Central hopes that this will allow STB members to examine the arguments and claims in back-and-forth questioning.

The case hinges on how the STB views a through-ticketing arrangement that it reached with Amtrak.

The STB could view this as evidence that Texas Central’s service is part of an interstate rail system, thus giving the STB jurisdiction.

Agency Criticizes FRA Funding Clawback Effort

March 7, 2019

The agency overseeing development of the California high-speed rail project is pushing back against the efforts of the Federal Railroad Administration to recall funding awarded to the state to help finance the project.

In a letter to the FRA, the California High-Speed Rail Authority denied that it violated the terms of the agreement of the $3.5 million in grants awarded for the project.

The letter described the FRA’s clawback efforts as “rash and unlawful.”

CHSRA said that contrary to the FRA’s assertion, the project is making progress in the state’s Central Valley.

The tiff was triggered by an announcement by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in his state of the state address that the project was being scaled back.

Originally designed to link San Francisco and Los Angeles by high-speed rail, Newsom said the line would only be built between Bakersfield to Merced in the Central Valley.

That prompted a demand by President Trump that California return the money awarded by the federal government for the project and shortly thereafter FRA Administrator Ron Batory notified CHSRA that it would terminate the federal grant money being awarded to the agency.

Batory said FRA would terminate a $929 million grant issued in 2010 and seek to recover $2.5 billion that has been awarded since 2009. Some of that money has already been spent.

In its letter to the FRA, the CHSRA said it was “committed to building a transformative, visionary high-speed rail project in full compliance with federal grant requirements.”

CHSRA counter argued that it has made progress and met its commitments under the grant agreements.

The agency CEO, Brian P. Kelly, wrote that “Termination of FY2010 agreement would be unwarranted, unprecedented and legally indefensible, and it would gravely harm a historic project on which the FRA and CHSRA have collaborated productively for nearly a decade.”

Kelly also said that the federal government’s efforts to recall funds would be disastrous policy.”

“It is hard to imagine how your agency — or the taxpayers — might benefit from partially constructed assets sitting stranded in the Central Valley,” Kelly said in the letter to the FRA.

“It is equally difficult to imagine the policy benefit of sending home the more than 2,600 craft workers, men and women who have been dispatched to work on the 119-mile segment now under construction.”

Texas Rail Line Called one of World Top Projects

March 7, 2019

An infrastructure advocacy group has named the proposed Texas Central high-speed rail project as the one world’s top global infrastructure projects.

CG/LA Infrastructure, which on its website describes its mission as seeking “to support the doubling of global infrastructure investment by 2020,” singled out the Houston-Dallas-Fort Worth project.

In a news release, Texas Central described its project as a “transformational project that is generating attention and excitement among infrastructure experts who recognize it as a catalyst for creating jobs, boosting the economy and providing a much-needed transportation choice.”

Texas Central Hires Advisers

February 27, 2019

Texas Central had hired Citi and MUFG to serve as its  financial advisers and lead capital-raising activities.

The two firms will help Texas Central acquire financing across debt and equity to finance a privately funded high-speed rail service between Houston and North Texas.

In a news release, Texas Central said that Citi will serve as the sole global coordinator and lead financial adviser, while MUFG will be a co-global financial adviser.

FRA Wants California to Return $9.2M

February 22, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration wants its money back.

In a letter to the California High Speed Rail Authority FRA Administrator Ron Batory asked the state to return $928.62 million that it received for a high-speed rail project that California Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week will be scaled back to a 160-mile line in the Central Valley.

Plans to create a high-speed rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco were dropped.

Batory said absent a compelling counter by the state, the agency would terminate the grant.

The letter cited several concerns including the state’s failure to meet matching grant deadlines, missing the project’s 2022 “period of performance” benchmark, an inability to effectively manage delivery of the project, not taking “appropriate corrective actions to ensure delivery of the project,” and failure to produce realistic construction schedules

Batory also said the FRA “is exploring all available legal options” to recover the nearly $2.5 billion in federal funds that have already been spent.

The grant money was awarded to California under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The letter gave state officials until March 5 to show how they have complied with terms of the federal grant.