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David Hagy with Texas Central Partners, LLC. Discussed the Proposed Texas High Speed Rail Line.

Friday, June 2, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Caroline Alvarez
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David Hagy with Texas Central Partners, LLC. Discussed the Proposed Texas High Speed Rail Line.

 

 

 

The Houston Contractors Association was proud to welcome Mr. David Hagy, Public Policy Director for Texas Central Partners, LLC. As the guest speaker for the May membership luncheon.  Mr. Hagy gave a presentation on the current status of the planned high speed rail line between Houston and Dallas.  He began his comments by thanking the City Council Members that were in the audience noting that Council Member Stardig’s district is ground zero for the train with it going right through her district. 

 

Mr. Hagy stated that this is a seven year old project that is a privately developed transportation system.  Not only is it a transportation system but also an economic development play as well.  Hagy said that their project will bring two of the largest, fastest growing cities in the country closer together and he envisions a Houston/Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex similar to some of the northern cities like Washington D.C. or Philadelphia. 

 

This project began when several of the original partners, who were traveling extensively in Europe and Asia at the time, asked themselves why there was no high speed rail in the United States.  These partners, after doing their research, made an operating agreement with Central Japan Railways to be their technology provider, and began looking for locations within the U.S. to build a train.

 

Mr. Hagy said that if you want to sell seats on a train, there is a sweet spot in distance that you have to hit.  Try to go too far and people will stay in a plane, go too short and they will stay in a car.  300 miles approximately is the right distance for high speed rail.  The first thing that the group did was to look at 97 city pairs across the U.S. with that distance and the Houston/Dallas pair came back as number one.  It has two large, fast growing cities on each end and is flat and rural in the middle which makes it constructible. 

 

The actual train that will be used is called the Shinkansen N700I and has been running in Japan for over 50 years and is easily the safest, most reliable train in the world.  It has never had a collision or had a loss of life accident in that time.  On reliability, it carries 400,000 passengers a day and is within one minute of being on time each year.  These trains are safe because they are grade separated the entire way and will never interact with cars or roads.  There are two tracks, one going north and one going south.  The track is specially built for this train and it is fenced the entire way and it has automatic train control which will allow the monitors to speed up, slow down or stop the train altogether remotely.

 

Once operational, this train will travel at approximately 205 miles per hour and it will travel between Houston and Dallas in less than 90 minutes.  There will be three stations on the route, one will be in Houston near the Northwest Mall, another will be in the Brazos valley between Huntsville and College Station.  The reason for this stop is that there are enough people between the residents of those two towns and the students at Texas A&M, Blinn College, and Sam Houston State College to justify the stop.  The third stop will be in Dallas, south of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center where it will connect to Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART).  Trains will leave every 30 minutes during peak hours and every hour during non-peak times. 

 

Looking at the construction of the line, Mr. Hagy stated that about 60% of the project will be built on a viaduct.  This is an expensive way to construct the line, but in talking with residents along the route and dealing with land acquisition, this was the preferred construction method because it allows cars, animals and farm equipment to pass underneath.  The other 40% of the route will be built on an earthen berm.  The train will have the catenary above and will have steel wheels and run on a steel rail. 

 

Mr. Hagy stated that this project will be a $12 to $15 billion investment into the state of Texas that will have a $36 billion impact on the state over the next 25 years.  Also as a private company Texas Central will pay taxes along the entire route amounting to roughly $2.5 billion to the various school districts and municipalities.  This project will create about 10,000 jobs a year during the construction phase amounting to 40,000 to 50,000 jobs in all, plus about 1,000 full time jobs once the train is operational.  They will use 10 million cubic yards of concrete to build the viaduct and the track which will be three times the amount used to construct the Hoover Dam.  There will be three stations, maintenance facilities, electrical substations all along the route and 1,100 miles of rail. 

 

Looking at the Texas Legislative Session this year, Mr. Hagy stated that there were about twenty bills targeting them during the session.  Most of the bills died off in the process, however there were two that Texas Central was working with the authors and were not opposed to.  One stated that they would not take any subsidies from the state, and as a privately funded entity they agreed with that.  The other dealt with the reimbursing of local entities for the use of police on the train which they planned to do anyway.

 

When looking at the potential ridership for the train, Mr. Hagy stated that the data shows there are over 50,000 super commuters that travel between Houston and Dallas.  A super commuter is defined as someone who travels at least three times a week between the two cities.  The state’s population is estimated to double over the next 20 years and that growth will be concentrated in Houston and Dallas.  TxDOT is estimating that because of the population growth, travel time between the two cities on I-45 will go from four hours to six hours.

 

Mr. Hagy stated that most Texans have not ridden rail and are not familiar with it at all.  He said that compared to flying, it is a very different experience.  There are no runways so you can park much closer, including right next to the terminal.  They are looking at a travel time of minutes from the time you get out of your car to being seated in the train.  Security will be passive security which means no magnetometers.  There will be police officers and dogs and cameras.  Everything will be done through your phone including automatically getting you on the next train if you missed the one you were booked on.  Trains do not have weather delays and are therefore more reliable.  Studies show that people using the train one way would save an hour versus flying or driving.  Ticket prices will vary upon demand said Hagy.  “We have to fill 400 seats every 30 minutes”.  Last minute business travelers will pay the most, frequent travelers will pay less as will those who purchase in advance.  The goal is to be competitive with cars and airlines, four to five years from now.

 

Mr. Hagy next addressed the train’s route selection and how that was decided.  He said that several people have asked him why they didn’t just follow I-45.  Hagy stated that I-45 is government owned property and there are construction rules that make it longer and harder to build in that right of way.  It is also not as straight as you might think, and when you are going 200 miles an hour you have to go straight.  Following I-45 would have required the purchase of a lot of privately owned and very expensive land to make the route straight.  Another option was to run along the BNSF railroad.  The problem with this route was there were a lot of liability issues.  Trains haul a lot of freight and BNSF was not interested in having a passenger rail running alongside of them.  The route that was chosen is called the utility corridor and it runs alongside the Centerpoint utility corridor going up towards College Station.  The route out of Houston would leave the Northwest Mall and go up Hempstead road and follow around 290 to Kickapoo road where it will hit the utility corridor and head north to College Station and then on to Dallas.

 

 


 

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