April 20, 2016 - Opinion / Austin-American Statesman / Sid Covington / Lone Star Rail
Last week, the Lone Star Rail District board of directors voted overwhelmingly to improve our region’s mobility by endorsing the completion of an environmental impact study already underway for a passenger rail line connecting San Antonio to Georgetown and cities in between.
By taking this affirmative stance, the Rail District retained the possibility for federal capital funding to support the project and demonstrated real mettle in the face of the Union Pacific Railroad’s recent decision to back away from the project. The board recognized that failure to complete the environmental study process would leave the region with no transportation alternative other than a relentless, continuous cycle of adding expensive-to-build new lanes to an increasingly congested and dangerous Interstate 35.
Union Pacific’s withdrawal may not be permanent. The railroad has a history of leaving, then rejoining projects — for example, the Alameda Corridor/Metrolink in Los Angeles, Tower 55 in Dallas, Denver FastTracks and Chisholm Trail Parkway in Fort Worth — once the short-term economic pressures fade. But Union Pacific’s unexpected departure provided Lone Star Rail an opportunity to reassess the project and reaffirm the solidarity of its stakeholders, including the 22 cities, counties and agencies represented on the Rail District’s board of directors.