Editor's note: to put this in context, Congressmen Kevin Brady (TX-08), Jake Ellzey (TX-06) and Michael McCaul (TX-10) sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressing their continuing opposition to Texas Central Railroad's (TCR) ability to access a demonstrated federal railroad loan program to partially fund the high-speed rail project between Houston to Dallas.
Leilich, a respected transportation expert, wrote this response letter to USDOT Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg......
Dear Secretary Buttigieg:
I read with continuing dismay Representative Kevin Brady’s letter to you, dated December 16, 2021, registering his ongoing opposition to High Speed Rail (HSR) – especially in Texas, with additional supporting signatures from Texas Representatives Michael McCaul and Jake Ellzey.
I have spent a lifetime in transportation, 30 years of which have been with top caliber transportation consulting firms A.T. Kearney , the former Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co (now KPMG) and, for 20 years, leading my own transportation consulting firm, Corporate Strategies, Inc. I have been lead consultant and project manager of many High Speed Rail studies in the US and also was a part-time staff instructor in operations and economics of HSR at the University of Illinois’s Civil Engineering Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC). Over the years, I have interacted and consulted with many other experts and professionals in HSR, both domestically and abroad. I have ridden HSR trains around the world, including Europe, China, and Taiwan. I have conducted my own independent, personal research into the merits of Texas Central’s proposed HSR between Houston and Dallas, including significant financial modeling.
In previous correspondence with Congressman Brady (who happens to live in my community) I believe he has completely failed to realize the merits of HSR and the billions of dollars that private investors and financial firms are willing to risk to build this exciting and badly needed project. He ignores the thousands of jobs that it would create in its construction, hundreds of ongoing jobs that the project would sustain, and the on-going millions of dollars in property taxes the company would pay. He ignores the dozens of lives, hundreds of injuries, and large property damages that would be prevented by shifting drivers and passengers to this far safer mode of transportation. He ignores the billions of dollars that the government is spending, and will have to spend, to expand the sole Interstate highway between these two fast-growing population centers, which is constantly subject to construction and accident delays and adverse weather conditions. (I know this from personal experience of driving this Interstate between Houston and Dallas over the last fifteen years.)
Congressman Brady claims that the HSR line would adversely harm rural communities. Not belittling the fact that it will be detrimental to a small number of property owners, the benefits of HSR far, far outweigh the relatively minor issues that its construction and operation will cause. The proposed addition of controlled lanes I-45 in Houston, alone, would displace and affect far more people than all of building Houston to Dallas HSR would. The proposed elevated HSR line, with frequent under passages, would not separate families, farms, and communities as Congressman Brady has repeatedly claimed with no substantiation.
Congressman Brady makes an inappropriate comparison to California HSR which is totally government funded with a huge amount of politics, strings, infighting, and (in my opinion) poor planning. The physical territories and distances involved are also not comparable. Congressman Brady ignores the immense success of HSR around the world and that its popularity continues to grow. The US is a third world country when it comes to HSR.
Congressman Brady doesn’t mind supporting billions of dollars for infrastructure improvements to airports and roads, which benefit airlines and private truckers, but he is against any form of public-private partnerships involving High Speed Rail. I’m not qualified to pass judgement on Texas Central’s eligibility for a PRIME grant, but I can unequivocally state that the Federal Government has never lost a dime on a low interest RRIF (Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing) loan guarantees, funded by private financial institutions, as all applicants are required to have insurance in case of default.
I sincerely hope that you will reject or ignore the letter signed by Congressmen Brady, McCaul, and Ellzey and appreciate the benefits and opportunities that the private investment Texas Central is willing to make to build HSR between Houston and Dallas, makes sense and is worth the risk.