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Plans for $14B TX Bullet Train Progress

Friday, September 20, 2019

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Texas Central Partners, the developer tackling the state’s new bullet train project, announced late last week that it had signed a deal with Italian civil engineering contractor Salini Impregilo and its U.S. subsidiary Lane Construction Corporation. Working together, Salini-Lane will work on the civil and infrastructure parts of the project.

The design-build agreement revolves around the installation of the civil infrastructure and track system, along with related buildings and services. The project's civil works are currently slated to cost $14 billion.

Texas Bullet Train Project

The bullet train, projected to run 200 mph, covering 240 miles in 90 minutes between Dallas and Houston, will have a pitstop in Grimes County, serving A&M University. TCP noted in June 2018 that the project is slated to bring in $3 billion in state and local tax revenue by 2040, as well as $36 billion in direct spending, with 10,000 jobs being created during construction and 1,500 maintained when the bullet train opens.

Current station plans include a 60-acre Dallas stop south of the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center and a 45-acre multi-level train complex on the Northwest Mall site in Houston. Technology for the project will be based on Central Japan Railway’s Tokaido Shinkansen train, which has operated for the past 54 years with zero passenger fatalities or injuries from operations, according to TCP.

In more recent months, property owners have expressed displeasure at the plans for the high-speed rail line, specifically the location of berms that could run through properties, citing concerns over impact to water supply and disruption to livestock. Officials from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality noted that they would visit these properties individually. It normally takes the TCEQ a year or more to issue a permit or deny a permit for a large project.

In the meantime, TCP stated that it had acquired land-use agreements with roughly one-third of those whose properties will be impacted by the project. In areas where the route has been known for longer, that number rises to nearly half. Other landowners have taken the issue to court: One Leon County landowner argued that the bullet train is not a railroad as defined by Texas law, so the land cannot be seized under eminent domain.

In December, the construction start date was slated for occurring by the end of 2019.

Recent Updates

According to the Houston Chronicle, there are still a number of hurdles that the project needs to pass, including federal approvals and raising funds from private investors. Critics have voiced their own thoughts about the announcement on the project, however, namely that the information is the same as what was released last year.

Holly Reed, Managing Director of external affairs for Texas Central, voiced her own disagreement with this assessment, claiming that the announcement is a milestone that is reflective of the readiness to eventually break ground. The joint venture will move forward with some details and design in place.

“This agreement brings us one step closer to beginning construction of the civil infrastructure segments of the project,” said Carlos F. Aguilar, CEO, Texas Central.

“Salini-Lane’s unmatched track record with rail infrastructure, and very specifically its world class high-speed rail expertise across the globe, will be central to the completion of America’s first end to end high-speed rail system.”

According to Texas Central, the total investment for the project is estimated to total $20 billion, with $14 billion of that for civil works, leading to potentially $36 billion in economic benefits for the state within the next 25 years.

The date for breaking ground was most recently bumped back to sometime in 2020.

   

Tagged categories: Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rail

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