Why SA should pay close attention to the Dallas-Houston 'bullet train' project

Don't look now, but the long, long, loooong talked-about plans for a bullet train in Texas have moved one step closer to reality.

In the Dallas area this week, a private company called Texas Central Partners held the first of a series of public hearings on its $15 billion plan to build a 200-mph rail system connecting Houston and Dallas.

That's after the Federal Railroad Association (FRA) released a draft environmental report last month which also narrowed down the route possibilities to basically one.

So at the first hearings it's not surprising that many of the voices were those of people who live right along that proposed route - and are opposed to it.

They're worried the tracks will cut through their land and their communities - and will change their lives.

90 minutes between Dallas and Houston

Texas Central is planning to use Japanese Shinkansen trains on entirely new tracks - elevated in many places - so the company says there will be no problems with the trains holding up vehicular traffic at grade crossings.

They say the technology, which has been used successfully in Japan for decades, will allow you to get to/from Dallas/Houston in 90 minutes, compared to the several hours it takes you by car right now.

And even if you never use the train yourself, a big part of the sales push for it is the idea that it would take a big chunk of the traffic off the roads between the two cities.

They also claim it will bring 10,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in new investment.

The plan is for it to be paid for with private money and possibly some federal loan dollars.

That's also drawing concern from critics who worry that taxpayers could be on the hook for that money if things don't work out as planned.

Rail fans here can only hope... and learn

However it plays out, San Antonio and South Texas need to pay very close attention to what works and what doesn't in the quest for a Texas bullet train.

Over the last few decades we have seen a number of plans for light rail between San Antonio and Austin die slow and painful deaths.

And there's also been the hope that one day we could see high-speed rail connecting San Antonio north to Dallas and south to Laredo and Monterey, Mexico.

After planners here have failed again and again, we just might succeed (in the long term) if we learn from the successes and failures of the Dallas-Houston bullet train.

How they fare in upcoming battles over land, money and possible federal support should give San Antonio a clearer idea of what we can look forward to.

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And let us know what you think at the News 4 San Antonio facebook page, or at my facebook page,

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