Texas high-speed rail illustrates private sector's role in America's infrastructure future

America’s first free market-led high-speed train project has signed two world class infrastructure engineering firms, and it signals that an economic upturn is on track. The Texas Bullet Train announced an agreement with Fluor Enterprises and Lane Construction to conduct extensive planning and design work along the 240-mile passenger line between North Texas and Houston and be the preferred design build companies post financial close.

As an investor-led transportation project, the ripple effects of this railroad’s development will be felt across the country as markets begin considering alternative models for infrastructure improvements.This high-speed train will connect the growing populations of North Texas and Houston – the country’s 4th and 6th largest metro areas, respectively – with a 90-minute trip, a relief from traffic-clogged roads and the hassles of airline travel. Along with improving Texans’ mobility, the bullet train will create jobs and economic opportunities.

The project is expected to pump more than $36 billion into the state and local economy over the next 25 years through direct spending, increased employment and new economic activity.

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The billions of tax dollars the bullet train will pour into the state’s coffers will benefit counties, cities, schools, hospital districts and other entities along the route. And, it will create more than 10,000 direct jobs during each year of construction, with nearly 1,000 permanent positions once operational – 25 percent in rural communities, which are in particular need of economic opportunities. It will also draw suppliers and labor from across rural Texas, and especially in the Brazos Valley.

 

The vast majority of the materials used to build the project — the concrete, aggregates and structural steel — as well as the labor that will work in this new industry, can be sourced domestically. It is Texas Central’s preference wherever possible to purchase all materials domestically. As the project’s design advances, the railroad is committed to working with domestic vendors and small, minority and veteran-owned businesses to enhance their participation in this emerging industry. 

The passenger stations – in Dallas, a midpoint stop in the Brazos Valley, and in Houston ­— will be a catalyst for development in those areas, including hotels, restaurants, residences, offices and other retail. Whether you’re using the train that day or not, the station areas will be destinations, becoming hubs of commerce attracting visitors.

Unlike other government projects which may have seen difficulty because they are not market-driven, this first-ever U.S. high-speed train will prove the viability of this technology and approach, creating a new high-tech industry where it never existed before. Texas will be leading the way seeding a domestic manufacturing industry for similar high-speed projects throughout the rest of the country.

Teams are already making decisions and collaborating building the project every day. Work is currently focused on completing environmental assessments, advancing engineering and designing the customer and safety-focused service, systems and Bullet Train facilities. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) continues to work on the preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which will help determine the project timeline and final route.

Amid political divisions in Washington, this is the rare project that has attracted bipartisan support. Why? The investor owned approach maximizes the role of the private sector. Texas will become the first state to have a true, world-class high-speed passenger train, without relying on taxpayer-funded grants or operational subsidies.

The operating system, developed in Japan, is the safest in the world, having completed about 5.6 billion passenger trips with a perfect record of no crashes and therefore no fatalities during more than 52 years of operation. This also drives reliability, resulting in an average annual delay of less than one minute.

Texans are demanding this project — 80 percent of those surveyed across the service area said they want to ride the 200-mph bullet train. It would also welcome the United States to the global community investing in the value proposition of high-speed train projects, after decades of watching successful projects connect cities and stimulate economies across Europe and Asia. 

Until now, trains largely have been seen as a benefit of living in large coastal cities, with America’s heartland watching from afar. But infrastructure projects like the Texas Bullet train will allow rural Texans, and people all across the country, to reap benefits in transport, jobs and development. The bullet train will be a game changer for Texas, and the nation. 

Holly Reed is the managing director of external affairs for Texas Central Partners, a private high-speed rail company.


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