Editor's note: This story has been updated with a separate comment from Texas Central.

Texas Central and Amtrak officials are exploring a partnership to potentially advance the 240-mile high-speed rail project proposed to connect Houston and Dallas, Amtrak officials announced in an Aug. 9 news release.

The high-speed rail project connecting Dallas to Houston, which was announced in 2014 by Texas Central, was set to be operational in 2023, by 2025 and in 2026, according to prior reporting. However, construction has not yet begun on the route.

Two-minute impact

Amtrak’s announcement states the two entities are evaluating a partnership to further determine the project’s viability.

“We believe many of the country’s biggest and fastest-growing metropolitan areas, like Houston and Dallas, deserve more high-quality high-speed, intercity rail service, and we are proud to bring our experience to evaluate this potential project and explore opportunities with Texas Central so the state can meet its full transportation needs,” said Andy Byford, Amtrak senior vice president of high-speed rail development programs, in the release.

According to the release, the project is anticipated to:
  • Provide travelers a 90-minute route between Houston and Dallas
  • Span 240 miles
  • Complement long-distance service in the southern region
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 tons per year and save 65 million gallons of fuel
  • Remove 12,500 cars per day from I-45
  • Bring thousands of construction jobs, and nearly 1,000 long-term skilled operations and maintenance positions to Texas
Development of the project has been quiet since the Texas Supreme Court issued a 5-3 ruling upholding Texas Central’s right to use eminent domain to construct its planned high-speed railroad in June 2022, Community Impact previously reported.

In addition to stations in Houston and Dallas, the proposed route is also slated to include a station in the Brazos Valley along Hwy. 30, just west of Hwy. 90, according to Texas Central.

With Amtrak’s potential involvement, Travis County Judge Andy Brown said in an Aug. 9 statement he is advocating for the proposed high-speed rail to extend from College Station to Austin, San Antonio and beyond.

Zooming out

The potential partnership between Texas Central and Amtrak comes as Byford joined Amtrak in April to lead the company’s long-term strategy for high-speed rail throughout the U.S., according to the release. Amtrak is developing a team focused on high-speed rail opportunities.

“This high-speed train, using advanced, proven Shinkansen technology, has the opportunity to revolutionize rail travel in the southern U.S., and we believe Amtrak could be the perfect partner to help us achieve that,” Texas Central CEO Michael Bui said in the release.

The release states the two entities have been working together since 2016. In 2018, Texas Central and Amtrak announced an agreement allowing passengers to use Amtrak's reservation system to purchase tickets for travel and transfer services for passengers traveling between Amtrak and Texas Central stations.

It was not immediately clear how the collaboration between Texas Central and Amtrak is changing with the August announcement.

"We appreciate Amtrak’s continued collaboration and look forward to continuing to explore how we can partner in the development of this important project. As mentioned, we are evaluating a potential partnership and the form such a partnership would take, including the roles of the respective partners. Decisions on next steps will be made in the coming year," Texas Central said in an Aug. 10 emailed statement.

According to the release, Texas Central and Amtrak have submitted applications to federal programs for grant funds to study and design the high-speed rail project, including the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvements grant program, the Corridor Identification and Development program, and the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail grant program.

Texas Central previously has not shared details on its funding for the project, although in 2018, a drafted memorandum of understanding between Texas Central and the metropolitan planning organization Harris-Galveston Area Council stated Texas Central “will not seek federal or state funding for the deployment of their project,” according to prior reporting by Community Impact.

In their own words
  • “It is bold, innovative endeavors like this that will propel Dallas toward an even more prosperous future,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in the release. “A high-speed rail line would revolutionize transportation in our region, serve as a catalyst for economic growth, and enhance connectivity among Texas residents and businesses.”
  • “Our city is committed to advancing transportation initiatives that support economic growth and enhance quality of life for our residents. The potential partnership of these two companies will accelerate the planning and analysis necessary for the successful implementation of a modern, efficient and environmentally sustainable rail system connecting Houston and Dallas,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in the release.
  • “The Greater Houston Partnership applauds the new collaboration between Amtrak and Texas Central Railway, and stands firm in our commitment to high-speed rail investment in Texas,” said Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, in an Aug. 9 statement. “We are hopeful this new partnership will accelerate the development of this project, and we look forward to working with all stakeholders throughout this process.”
One more thing

Brown said he has met with stakeholders and Mexican leaders the last two years to gauge interest in high-speed passenger rail between Austin, San Antonio and the Nuevo Leon region of Mexico, a concept which he claims received broad support from leaders.

To consider extending the high-speed rail project through Travis County, an environmental impact statement would first be needed, according to Brown’s office.

“A high-speed passenger rail system connecting the largest communities in our state could create economic growth, address affordability issues, and promote a safer and more environmentally responsible way to travel for everyone. I’m excited about today’s announcement and want to send a clear message from Travis County: This is an investment in our future and an investment in the people who live in our communities,” Brown said in a statement.