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TX Bullet Train Receives Federal Approval

Thursday, September 24, 2020

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On Monday (Sept. 21), Texas Central Railroad announced via press release that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration had released the pre-publication version of the final Rule of Particular Applicability and the Record of Decision for the high-speed rail project, slated to link Houston and Dallas, Texas.

The two key rulings are major milestones for the project and will provide the regulatory framework and environmental review.

About the Project

The bullet train, projected to run 200 mph, will be able to cross 240 miles in 90 minutes between Dallas and Houston. The span will also include a stop in Brazos Valley, Texas, serving A&M University.

Last September, Texas Central Partners announced 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. Thus far, 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. Civil works for the project were slated to cost $14 billion at the time.

Texas Central Railroad

On Monday (Sept. 21), Texas Central Railroad announced via press release that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration had released the pre-publication version of the final Rule of Particular Applicability and the Record of Decision for the high-speed rail project, slated to link Houston and Dallas, Texas.

As reported by Urban Transport News, Renfe has been given roughly $311 million for the design and construction of the infrastructure. However, operations and maintenance of the line (taking place from 2026-42) are expected to bring in another $5.6 billion.

Additionally, over the next 25 years, reports claim that the endeavor will generate $36 billion in statewide economic benefits and is expected to create more than 17,000 jobs during construction and 1,500 permanent jobs once completed. TCP noted back in June 2018 that the project was also slated to bring in $3 billion in state and local tax revenue by 2040, as well as $36 billion in direct spending.

Texas Residential Construction Commission issued a recent statement about the project, saying that more than, “$10 billion in immediate economic impact across the U.S. via contracts for steel mills and other manufacturers, minority- and women-owned businesses, veterans and rural businesses” would be generated.

At the beginning of the year, Madrid-based freight and passenger train operator Renfe Operadora announced that it had signed a $5.9 billion deal with Texas Central, involving the design, build and operation of the bullet train.

The train itself will be designed to replicate the Central Japan Railway’s Tokaido Skinkansen train system, which is over 55 years old and has transported over 10 billion passengers. The Japanese train system is also reported to have a spotless safety record, with zero operational passenger fatalities or accidents since it was first deployed.

Federal Approval, Next Steps

According to Texas Central, the approval of the RPA is based on a systems approach to safety and will help to establish governing safety requirements for the high-speed train system’s signal and trainset control, track, rolling stock, operating rules and practices, system qualifications and maintenance.

The ROD, on the other hand, formally selects the train’s alignment and completes the Federal Railroad Administration’s environmental review process—which began in 2014 as required by the National Environmental Policy Act—and culminated the publication of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The FEIS was reported to be over 10,000 pages long and was released on May 29.

“This is the moment we have been working towards,” said CEO of Texas Central Railroad, Calos Aguilar.

“The release of the final RPA and ROD by the Federal Railroad Administration represents years of work by countless individuals, affirming a very thorough and careful federal regulatory process that will make the Texas Central Railroad the first high-speed rail system to be implemented in the United States.”

Currently, Texas Central is reported to have over 600 parcels of land for the project (approximately 40% of what they need), in addition to sites for its three stations. However, some resistance against the project has been witnessed by rural property owners living in Central Texas.

Representing the areas slated to be affected by the project, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands), reports that the recent ruling still do not allow use of eminent domain or for Texas Central to begin construction. In actuality, the federal Surface Transportation Board must approve the project before construction can officially begin. The Texas Tribune reports that several other local groups also oppose the project.

However, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner stated after the rulings that, “The construction of high-speed rail will have a generational impact, creating thousands of jobs right here in Houston and injecting billions of dollars into our local businesses. Once operational, the system will create connections and opportunities never thought possible.”

Construction is slated to begin during the first half of 2021—at the cost of around $20 billion—and will take up to six years to complete. Texas Central is currently working on securing funding for the project and has reportedly received letters of intent from unnamed banks in Japan and Europe for over half of the anticipated debt needed for the project.

   

Tagged categories: Federal Railroad Administration; Government; Government contracts; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rail; Upcoming projects

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