(Arlington) - A TxDOT service development plan to bring passenger rail service to the I-35 corridor between Oklahoma and South Texas expects to come out in rough form in the spring of 2016. Speaking before North Texas transportation officials this week in Arlington, Texas Department of Transportation Rail Division Director Erik Steavens presented a glimpse into work of the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study (TOPRS).
"We are looking at lots of styles of service as well as investor driven projects in the corridor", according to Steavens. A draft environmental impact statement, which is required by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is expected to be made public in the spring of 2016. The TOPRS plan covers passenger rail potential from Oklahoma City through the DFW area, Austin and San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley along either side of the I-35 corridor. Steavens said that a record of decision for the corridor is expected in early 2017.
TxDOT is also the lead agent. along with the Federal Railroad Administration, on the Dallas-Fort Worth Core Express service study. Steavens spent the week meeting with transportation officials in North Texas getting their input on potential plans for a high speed rail service between Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas that is expected to connect to a privately financed bullet train project being built by Texas Central Partners between Dallas and Houston. TxDOT is only supplying technical support to Texas Central and the FRA, as the Dallas-Houston project has repeatedly stated that it will not accept any state or federal funding.
Meetings with other stakeholders on the DFW Core Express will continue through January 2016, according to Steavens. By spring, TxDOT is expected to have more detailed ridership numbers and potential station locations mapped out.
While funding for the Dallas to Fort Worth segment has not yet been identified, the planning process is narrowing down the rail route to three potential lines. Combinations of the existing Trinity Railway Express commuter line, Interstate-30, Texas 360 and Trinity River Corridor are all being studied under a federal grant. As Texas legislators have repeatedly ignored passenger rail development and any funding for study or construction in the state, regional transportation officials are hopeful they can work with the private sector to develop rail service.
The Fort Worth-Arlington-Dallas segment is envisioned to handle trains at over 125 miles per hour, compared to the Trinity Railway Express regional train service that runs up to a maximum of 79 miles per hour. The study is looking at investor-driven buy-ins, different types of passenger rail vehicles, making sure there is good connectivity at stations and focusing on aspects on good customer service. Informational public meetings are expected later in 2016 with a record of decision on routes and services later in 2017.