Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional comments from the organization Re-Route the Route and Texas Central.

Residents in the Houston and Dallas areas could see construction on the Texas high-speed rail—which is planned to connect Houston and Dallas—next year following an agreement between high-speed rail developer Texas Central and Mass. Electric Construction Co., a train system installation firm, according to a Nov. 21 press release.

Texas Central and Mass. Electric on Nov. 21 announced the two entities' Early Contract Involvement agreement, which covers work through the end of 2019 to define the scope, execution plan, schedule and price for a construction contract, according to the release. A construction contract is expected to be signed before the end of the year, with construction beginning in 2020, the release said.

Mass. Electric Construction Co., a subsidiary of construction engineering company Kiewit Corp., will focus on installing the core system and safety elements of the high-speed rail, including all necessary power, signaling and communications equipment, the release said. The core system is a "key component" of the Central Japan Railway's Tokaido Shinkansen technology being used for the high-speed rail, according to the release.

"The Shinkansen total system approach has created performance unparalleled in the industry, having transported over 10 billion people safely," Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar said in the release. "Marrying the experience of Mass. Electric with the dedication to safety of an integrated system brings the project one step closer to construction and operation."

Mass. Electric has worked on several transportation projects across the nation, including phase two of the Houston Light Rail System, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit green line light rail, and Union Station in Denver, Colorado, according to the release.

“This project draws on our extensive experience in delivering high-quality rail systems safely and effectively,” Mass. Electric Project Director Mark Williams said in the release. “We are excited to play a key role in the nation’s first high-speed train project.”

In addition, the Federal Railroad Administration granted the Rule of Particular Applicability—or RPA, which is a regulation that applies to a specific railroad or a specific type of operation to ensure safety—to Texas Central on Sept. 4, one of two FRA actions needed to pursue construction on the project, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

However, Taylor Ward, a spokesperson for the organization Re-Route the Route—a coalition of business owners, transportation experts and Texas residents advocating for the proposed route to be located in a "more sensible area"—said in an email that Texas Central has yet to secure any of the necessary approvals and permits from the FRA, the Surface Transportation Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

There is no guarantee the proposed project will come to fruition even if the necessary federal approvals are secured, some of which depend on the company acquiring all of the necessary land from Texas businesses and property owners," Ward said in an emailed statement. "Texas Central may try to tout this as a step forward in their process, but there is no forward momentum on the proposed high-speed train."

Despite these claims, Texas Central spokesperson Caroline Jennings said in an email that having the ECI agreement in place is still another step toward getting the project ready for construction once federal approvals are received.

"Texas Central continues to be on track with our timeline, which is directly tied to the [FRA's] regulatory process. While Texas Central is unable to control the pace of bureaucracy, the project continues to move forward with refining design, cost and timelines for full construction," she said in an email. "Once the federal approvals are in place, Texas Central is eager to break ground as early as 2020 which would lead to commercial service as soon as 2026."