In a move that should alarm local residents, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recommended the “Utility Corridor” route for the proposed high-speed rail that would run between Houston and Dallas. In its August 10, 2015 report, the FRA noted that the utility corridor route passed its “…Physical Characteristics, Operational Feasibility, and Environmental Constraints screening criteria.” The Utility Corridor is a path that runs extremely close to existing high-voltage power lines. Use of the corridor will require the taking of private land.
While the route recommendation constitutes a concrete step toward realizing the high-speed rail project, the FRA must complete an environmental impact study before the route is confirmed. The FRA’s recommendation does not establish a definite path within the corridor. Rather, the final location of the line will be selected from possible alignments within the corridor. However landowners along the route should be concerned about possible conflicts between high-voltage transmission lines and the rail.
As far as finance is concerned, it is a known fact that Texas Central, the rail’s constructor, has been denied government funding. As a result they have turned to private sources, both domestic and foreign. All in all, the rail project will require approximately $12 billion to complete. So far, domestic funding attempts have produced a meager $75 million. But rail opponents should not rest easy. Recent developments have given Texas Central reason to expect that at least half of the necessary funds will come from a foreign loan issued by the Japanese Bank of International Cooperation. The bank, operating under the direct control of the Japanese Government, helps provide funding for projects as part of its agenda to create a Japanese-favorable export balance with the United States. This time, the exports in question are Shinkansen locomotives and passenger cars, both sold by the Central Japan Railway Company.
“People think that there’s nothing out here, but people out here ranch and farm,” said Kyle Workman an original member of Texans Against High-Speed Rail to HoustonPress. “They use this land, and the bullet train is going to plow right over them.”
Texas Central now has a stronger sense of which landowners they may engage with for future land acquisition deals. “Now, they can focus on one [route] and they can go out and meet with landowners and get out in the field and start talking to communities and stakeholders about where the line will actually go,” a Texas Central spokesman said to the HoustonPress.
Photo courtesy of RaillyNews.com.
Coauthored by Christopher Chan and Justin Hodge.