May 9, 2024 - TRA Newswire -

A passenger rail advisory committee in Central Texas, spearheaded by county judges of two of the largest metro areas in Texas is aiming to get regional rail service started between Austin and San Antonio.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai have joined forces and have organized a committee to take steps in making train service between San Antonio and Austin a reality. The committee will meet the first Monday of every month and will work to determine the best way to establish passenger rail along the I-35 travel corridor between the two major metropolitan areas. 

Judge Brown, in a statement to the media, said “The fastest-growing metros must leverage this moment to build a modern transportation system to serve the economic, environmental, and public safety needs of all central Texans.” 

At the May meeting, the committee was presented with a draft charter to review. A letter, to be signed by participating parties, will be forwarded to lawmakers at the capitol in Austin, stating intentions to advance passenger rail service and asking for broad support. 

Traffic on Interstate 35 is only destined to increase and cause more congestion, no matter what the Texas Department of Transportation does with highway planning for the future. "It's imperative that frequent and dependable rail service happen, not only in the short run between Austin and San Antonio, but along the length of the I-35 corridor from Dallas-Fort Worth to Laredo", according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "With only highways for travel choices we are facing a future of delays, delays and more delays in roadway traffic in this fast-growing state, and that's not a plus for a good economy."

The committee, the first of its kind to be established in the region, is comprised of county judges, former and current elected officials, transit agency heads, municipal planning agencies, TxDOT, Amtrak, rail transportation experts, advocates and the committee director of the Texas House Transportation Committee. 

Besides judges Brown and Sakai, the committee members include:

  • Henry Cisneros, former United States secretary of Housing and Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio
  • Melissa Cabello Havrda, San Antonio Council Member, District 6, and chair of the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • Dottie Watkins, president and CEO for Capital Metro
  • Jeff Davis, rail division director for Texas Department of Transportation
  • Todd Stennis, government affairs director for Amtrak
  • Amy Rister, committee director, Texas House Transportation Committee
  • Joe Black, senior vice president for WSP Transit and Rail Operations & Service Planning
  • Ross Milloy, president of the Greater Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council
  • Clay Anderson, dxecutive director of Restart Lone Star Rail District
  • A.J. Bingham, founder and CEO of the Bingham Group
  • Jay Crossley, executive director of Farm & City
  • Veronica Davis, director of Cities Program at AtkinsRealis
  • Gavin Martin, director of Rail & Transit at AtkinsRealis
  • Karen Kennard, co-managing shareholder for Greenberg Traurig
  • Peter LeCody, president of Texas Rail Advocates
  • Bill McCamley, executive director of Transit Forward
  • Sandy Guzman, CEO, Austin Area Research Organization
  • Meg Merritt, principal for Movitas Mobility
  • Jerry Smiley, vice president and senior program manager for AECOM
  • John Kleinheinz, CEO of Kleinheinz Capital Partners and board member of Texas Central Partners
  • Andy Jent, private equity and special situations for Kleinheinz Capital Partners
  • Husein Cumber, chief strategy officer of Florida East Coast Strategies
  • Javier Dominguez, executive analyst of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council

Photo credit: Texas Rail Advocates at Austin Amtrak Station, December 2023