October 3, 2022 - TRA Newswire -

Mayors of Houston, Austin and San Antonio have asked the Executive Director of TxDOT to participate in a passenger rail corridor  program being developed as part of the Infrastructure bill passed by Congress.

In a September 22, 2023 letter to Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Marc Williams, the three Mayors expressed their support for more passenger rail service in Texas to connect the Texas Triangle. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is in process of setting up a program to identity growth opportunities and will fund much of the operating and capital needs required to improve and expand rail service. The FRA is soliciting "expressions of interest" from entities like TxDOT so the federal agency can work with states and regional entities to plan how billions of dollars for passenger rail projects approved in the infrastructure law will be distributed across the country. No upfront funding is required from the state of Texas, just an understanding that the corridors have the potential to be part of TxDOT's multi-modal planning efforts. 

Signed by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, the letter spells out that the FRA will be "soliciting non-binding interest from eligible parties for new intercity passenger rail routes or enhanced existing routes to develop a list of corridors that will guide future grantmaking." In its 2035 vision statement, national carrier Amtrak noted there are three passenger rail corridors in Texas that have strong potential for frequent intercity service. Those are Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin/San Antonio, San Antonio to Houston and Houston via College Station to Dallas. 

In a separate letter to Williams, San Marcos Mayor Jane Hughson wrote to "express my enthusiastic support for more passenger rail service. We agree with Amtrak: Texas is woefully underserved by intercity passenger train service today."

In July, Texas Rail Advocates sent a letter to TxDOT's Williams petitioning the state to name at least three intercity passenger rail corridors that would be worthy in the FRA's "expression of interest" outreach. They included an expression of interest in expanding the daily Amtrak Heartland Flyer with an additional Fort Worth-Oklahoma City round-trip; advancing the next phase of the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study (I-35 rail) and an extension of Amtrak service from DFW through East Texas and Louisiana to connect to Amtrak's national network on the East coast.  

Adler, Turner and Nirenberg said in their letter "our Texas cities, including San Marcos, would like to work with you to ensure that Texas does not miss this important opportunity to express our interest in exploring how this program could help us improve passenger rail service in the region to better connect people and support local economies."