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Houston-to-Dallas high-speed rail to make only stop in Grimes County

Houston-to-Dallas high-speed rail to make only stop in Grimes County

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A proposed $12 billion high-speed rail system linking Dallas and Houston will make its only stop in north Grimes County, officials with the private development confirmed early Thursday.

Texas Central Partners is expected later this morning to make a formal announcement about the $1 billion station, track and infrastructure in Grimes, which the company hopes to build between College Station and Huntsville, officials said.

A specific site hasn't been decided upon, but officials said they hope to be able to build the tracks adjacent to existing rights of way along land reserved for high-voltage electric transmission lines.

Company officials said they expect the train station will trigger residential, commercial and retail growth in the region. With that comes an estimated $50 million paid by the company to taxing entities in Grimes over the next 25 years.

Grimes County Judge Ben Leman is the president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail, a group opposed to the venture. In an April story published in The Eagle, multiple concerns were voiced by the organization including that Texas Central might use eminent domain to get access to land needed for the route. The potential for such a company to need a bailout through government subsidies also is a major concern for the organization.

The company — which wants to start construction next year and hopes to have a bullet train ready for customers five years later — will spur more than $2.5 billion in economic benefits across the state over the next two-plus decades, officials said.

 A one-way trip between Houston and Dallas — a 230-mile drive — is expected to take 90 minutes, on the high-speed rail. The trip to Houston from the Brazos Valley station would take about 30 minutes, while from north Grimes to Dallas would take an hour or so.

Right now, studies have shown, roughly 50,000 people at least once a week travel back and forth between Houston and Dallas.

Meanwhile, U.S. Census Bureau officials predict that the populations of Dallas and Houston are projected to roughly double by 2035, while in the same time period, auto traffic between the two cities also will increase by about 100.

A study done by Allen-based Insight Research Corp., states that Texas Central will pay more than $2.5 billion in tax revenue to the state, counties, cities and school districts through 2040. The group projects an overall $36 billion impact statewide through taxes, jobs and private developments.

Company officials say they’re waiting on results of an environmental impact study that will help them determine the exact locations of each of the three stations.

Plans call for trains to make the trip from Dallas to Houston every 30 minutes during peak hours and every hour during other hours. A six-hour stretch in the middle of the night will be dedicated to track inspections, during which time trains won’t run, officials said.

Ticket prices will vary based on time of day and type of ticket, and will be competitive with airfare and driving, officials have previously said.

“This is an unprecedented, multi-billion-dollar private investment in the state’s future,” said Texas Central CEO Tim Keith in a news release. “The economic impact is unique because it will have lasting effects over the next few generations. Texas Central is providing tax revenue that can put more teachers in schools, build new roads, hire more police and firefighters and improve facilities in all of the counties where we’ll be operating.”

Officials said a stop to service Brazos Valley was always high on the priority list throughout the five-year planning period because of the population and high demand. The plans detail how the company wanted to minimize the impact on communities by not running through cities.

According to the news release from the company, the project is expected to result in an average of 10,000 jobs per year over the four-year construction phase, then employ 1,000 full-time workers once the rail becomes operational in 2021.

Total annual employee payroll is expected to be $80 million.

The proposed station in north Grimes also is expected to attract additional development to the Brazos Valley, including new residential areas within driving distance, the news release said.

Officials couldn’t say the number of full-time jobs it would create in Grimes county, but said Grimes would have a 12- to 24-person maintenance station and a fully staffed passenger station.

This will be the first dedicated high-speed passenger rail in the United States, officials said. The only thing similar is an electric train in the Northeast that goes about 150 miles per hour, but that line isn’t dedicated to high-speed passenger rail.

The train will use the same technology as the Shinkansen bullet-trains in Japan, which can top out at about 200 miles per hour and have operated for 50 years without a single fatality caused by derailments or collisions, officials said.

Texas Central has been working with Central Japan Railway Company on the development of the project. The Japanese company operates 323 high-speed trains, transporting daily an average of 424,600 with an average delay of less than one minute, according to Texas Central's website.

In a story published in The Eagle earlier this year, then-company president Robert Eckels said he hoped informational meetings that they planned along the possible routes, including in College Station, their plan is different from bullet train proposals in the past.

Failed attempts to publicly fund high-speed rail routes in Texas go back at least to the early 1990s with the topic making its way into proposed bills eventually spiked in the legislature, and onto stages at county public hearings across the state.

Eckels told The Eagle in April that his company's project won't depend on government funding, which makes it more likely to get the job completed, he said at the time.

Company officials said their efforts to bring Japan's bullet train to the U.S. started more than six years ago when they did an in-depth transportation study on 97potential city pairs.

They wanted to know which route would make money and eventually serve as the model for similar projects in other states. When they considered all of the possibilities, the Dallas to Houston route was No. 1 on their list.

Three of the 10 counties through which the proposed route would be built are in Brazos Valley, including Grimes, Madison and Leon.

 Though the exact route for the Dallas-Houston train is still not finalized, Texas Central has expressed the most interest in the “Utility Corridor,” which would follow high-voltage electrical transmission lines through 10 counties: Harris, Waller, Grimes, Madison, Leon, part of Limestone, Freestone, Navarro, Ellis and Dallas.

Once Texas Central has received its approval from The Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration, Keith told The Eagle over the summer, the project will be able to move forward with physical work.

 

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