May 13, 2019 - -

THE FAST TRACK: Politico Morning Transportation report recently sat down with Carlos Aguilar, the CEO of Texas Central Railway, which is trying to build a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston, to talk about the project and the broader industry.

On the future of high-speed rail in the U.S.: “I believe the concept has to be understood, and generally it isn’t. We don’t have it in the U.S., so what can you compare it to?” Aguilar said. "You cannot develop this kind of concept without explaining how reliable and how safe it is. I do believe our project will lead the way in doing that.”

On working with the federal government to get environmental and construction permits: “There’s frustration every day.” Aguilar said he has tried to impress on federal officials that the project is private and does not have access to any or subsidies, but that fact isn’t well understood. “It’s very clear to us that it isn’t. The sense of urgency, the sense of priority, the fact that you have impending obligations if you don’t complete it within a certain timeframe — all of this is things we tell them, but I don’t see reaction. And that is very concerning.”

On competition from various Hyperloop or “loop” proposals: “Those are not projects. Those are concepts. That is I think the difference,” Aguilar said. “Technology is number one. If you don’t solve that one, that’s a huge question mark as to whether it will work. And that is still to be proven in any of those initiatives. The difference is we are now and we can do it.”

What’s next: The project’s current timeline, if it can navigate federal permitting hurdles and opposition from some landowners and local governments along its route, would see construction start in 2020.