January 8, 2018 – TRA Newswire –

The countdown clock is running. It’s now only 4 Years and 10 months until the recently released Federal Railroad Administration’s Service Level EIS for passenger rail service along or near the I-35 corridor from Oklahoma to South Texas becomes another dusty study on TxDOT’s shelves if nothing is accomplished. There’s a time limit as to when a federal Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement becomes stale and is subject to a do-over at considerable cost.

For years the public and private sector has been discussing intercity passenger rail service between cities on the I-35 corridor. Now that a federal study has been completed showing that train service is viable in the corridor Texas Rail Advocates is pushing for a coalition of public and private sector partners to advance what is being called “Empower 35”. The federal report indicates that, depending on the segment of the route, either conventional, higher speed or high speed rail service is doable.

The I-35 travel corridor is the major spine for transportation in Texas. Just pouring more concrete and asphalt will not cut it, according to a TRA email sent to stakeholders. Studies show that Texans want and need transportation choices. The call that went out to elected and appointed officials in cities, towns and counties that would benefit from passenger rail service asks for their participation in a coalition.

“It will take willing elected and appointed officials, business and industry, colleges and universities and all interested stakeholders to move this rail corridor forward”, according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. “It could be through private enterprise, public-private partnerships or wise public investing that will create a rail travel corridor that will serve the coming generations of traveling Texans”.

TRA Executive Director Chris Lippincott is leading the charge to form an Empower 35 coalition and outlined four steps that interested stakeholders can take to participate:

STEP ONE:  Indicate you support the development of a passenger rail corridor that offers fast, frequent and dependable service. Just reply to this email with “I SUPPORT” and indicate a good address, email and phone number so that we may inform you of developments in the future.
STEP TWO: If you would like to take a leadership role and help us establish a working group to move this forward, serve on a team or can be a voice in your area please respond back with “I WANT TO HELP“.
STEP THREE:  If you are an elected or appointed official, have your entity pass a resolution of support and reply “WE HAVE A SUPPORT DOCUMENT“. If you need help drafting a supporting resolution, let us know. We want to be a resource for you.
STEP FOUR:  The public needs to be energized because we all know that if our leaders hear from the public then they will pay attention. We will be looking for sources of funding for public outreach meetings, social media coverage and special events to highlight the need for I-35 rail, so please respond back with “I CAN PLEDGE OR FIND SUPPORT
Interested stakeholders can contact Chris Lippincott at chris@texasrailadvocates.org for more information.

Bringing passenger rail service to the I-35 corridor will be discussed at the 14th Annual Southwestern Rail Conference in Dallas January 18-19 .  Former TxDOT Rail Division Director Bill Glavin will moderate a panel that includes Craig Moody, Rail Programs Division Manager at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation; North Central Texas Council of Governments Program Manager Kevin Feldt and Jessica Attas, Director of Public Policy at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.