“It’s going to get built,” said Michael Moore, regional vice president of external affairs at Texas Central, the company spearheading the effort. “The project is moving forward.”
Speaking at the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Forum on Wednesday, June 20, Moore said he expects construction will begin by the end of 2019 and take about five years to complete.
“There are 14 million trips a year between Houston and Dallas, and 90 percent of these are by car,” Moore said, adding that traffic congestion is expected to worsen as the state's population grows.
“We need transportation alternatives,” he said. “The freeways can only grow so much.”
The project hit a significant milestone on Dec. 15 when the Federal Railroad Administration signed a draft environmental impact statement outlining a preferred route for the proposed railway.
The project has also made headway on land acquisitions from individual landowners. As of now, 30 percent of the land parcels from Houston to Dallas and 50 percent of the parcels in Grimes, Waller and Madison counties are contracted. The land is bought above fair market value, not rented, Moore said.
Along with landowner meetings, Texas Central representatives have started having initial conversations with school districts along the route.
“We’ve already met with Cy-Fair ISD and Houston ISD, and we are trying to schedule [a meeting]
with Spring Branch ISD,” Moore said.
The objective of the meetings are to make sure the railway will not interfere with students commuting to school, he said.
There are three passenger stations proposed along the route in Dallas, Grimes County and Houston.
Here are five quick facts regarding the high-speed rail project, according to Moore and Texas Central:
1. The Texas Bullet Train
Texas Central will use Shinkansen trains. There will be 400 seats on each train, spaced two-by-two. The aisle will be wide enough for a wheelchair to pass.
2. Job creation
A total of 10,000 jobs will be created during the construction phase and 1,500 direct jobs will be created when the trains are operational.
3. Building stations from the ground up
The stations will use new technology, such as facial recognition, for security purposes. An app will also be available to let passengers book their transportation to the train and order lunch to have it delivered to their seats prior to their arrival.
4. Train schedule
One train will leave Houston and one will leave Dallas every 30 minutes. Trains will be shut down every night for six hours for maintenance.
Tickets are expected to cost less than airline tickets and will be cheaper the earlier they are bought. A student program will be offered, as well. If a passenger misses a train, they will be automatically booked for the next available seat.