February 18, 2024 - TRA Newswire - 

Right now they are just lines on a map. Ideas and proposals driven by a lot of data and background material.

But when the Federal Railroad Administration finishes their required study to evaluate future Amtrak conventional passenger rail corridors, it could get very interesting for underserved Texas cities and towns as well as others across the country that lack air service, bus service or have inadequate rail service.

The draft map of a Proposed Network of Preferred Routes, unveiled this past week at an FRA working group meeting in Kansas City could have a major impact on increasing passenger rail service in Texas if the new routes were implemented. 

"The Dallas-Fort Worth region kind of looks like a spider web on the map with passenger rail routes radiating in all directions," according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody, who attended the Kansas City briefing. "These proposed routes would serve some cities and towns like Amarillo, Abilene, Midland and others that have not had passenger trains in over half a century."

"In some cases it would add a second frequency on parts of some existing Amtrak services that would give passengers a choice in how to travel. In the case of the Sunset Limited, which only operates three days a week east to west through South Texas, it would mean daily service to El Paso, Del Rio, Alpine and Beaumont, " said LeCody. 

The FRA study is required by Section. 22214 of the Infrastructure Law passed by Congress in 2021. The Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study directs the U.S. DOT to conduct a study to evaluate the restoration of daily intercity rail passenger service along any Amtrak long-distance routes that has been discontinued, and any Amtrak long-distance routes that, as of the date of enactment of the Act, occur on a nondaily basis.

Advocates expect to get negative feedback from naysayers who look at the map and exclaim that no one would ride a San Antonio to Minneapolis-St. Paul train when you can fly there in a couple of hours. The majority of riders would be traveling within regional corridors, according to statistics.

"You might have a passenger riding from Tulsa to Oklahoma City or San Marcos to Fort Worth or Fort Worth to Colorado City", said LeCody. "These trains could reconnect a rural America that can't fly between most cities and would provide a good transportation option. I understand that some 25% of riders on Amtrak have some level of disability. Trains offer this segment of our population a reasonable travel choice."

At this point these are just ideas and proposals of what could happen with conventional passenger rail. When the FRA finishes its plan, it will then be up to Congress to look at funding for these services. 

The FRA is looking for feedback from the public. You can enter your comments at https://fralongdistancerailstudy.org/