December 12, 2023 - TRA Newswire Austin -

Speaking before the monthly Texas Transportation Commission meeting in Austin, Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody congratulated the Transportation Commissioners and Executive Director Marc Williams for being the recipient of two TxDOT Corridor Identification and Development Passenger Rail Planning Grants from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) this past Friday.

"These two conventional speed planning grants and others awarded to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, Southern Rail Commission and Amtrak will allow for the planning of new passenger rail services that will link urban cities and rural towns in Texas," according to LeCody. "It’s the first step in a process to give Texans in underserved public transportation areas like Corsicana, Longview, College Station, Alpine, Gainesville and Rosenberg access to a new intercity transportation choice."

The two TxDOT rail corridor planning grants, valued at up to $500,00 each, are to develop conventional rail service from Dallas via College Station to Houston, and passenger service from Houston to San Antonio. These grants will speed the development of new services on routes that haven’t performed the required permitting or done sufficient design and engineering work to start construction.

There was one planning grant that TxDOT applied for but was turned down by the FRA. That was for the I-35 Lone Star Rail Corridor.

In his remarks to the transportation commission LeCody said "the I-35 Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin, San Antonio and Laredo corridor grant was rejected by the FRA and it must be determined why this application was turned down and what is needed to achieve federal funds when there is a second round of Corridor ID planning grants planned for next year."

Recent statements from Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Bexar County judge Peter Sakai along with your Austin Mayor Kirk Watson supports passenger rail as a priority item for the I-35 Lone Star Rail Corridor, according to LeCody who said  I’ve heard similar pleas from elected officials from Fort Worth all the way South to Laredo."

The TRA President urged the Transportation Commissioners to develop a forward thinking Passenger Rail Vision plan like we do for highways. "I call on TxDOT to look what other states are doing with passenger rail like Florida, North Carolina, Nebraska and nearby neighbors like Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Missouri." 

"The Federal Railroad Administration offers a federal-state partnership that Texas should be a part of. TxDOT should be a member of States for Passenger Rail. The Southern Rail Commission would welcome Texas as a working partner. There’s a lot to be learned for best practices", according to LeCody.

Photo credit: Amtrak