Dallas, Texas – In a significant development heralding the transformation of the Texan transportation landscape, officials have announced that the Fort Worth-Dallas high-speed rail initiative is progressing at an accelerated pace, potentially outstripping even the recently-energized Dallas-Houston line, which has been newly invigorated by Amtrak’s involvement.
The idea of Fort Worth-Dallas high-speed rail was initially brought to life in 2017
Initially conceptualized in 2017, the Fort Worth-Dallas corridor, overseen by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, is poised to commence its formal environmental evaluation phase in September, with anticipation of obtaining requisite federal approvals by the year 2024.
Designed to alleviate the burgeoning transit demands of a rapidly expanding metroplex—whose population, currently exceeding 8 million, is projected to swell to an estimated 11 million by 2045—the high-speed rail link is strategically aligned parallel to the Interstate 30 corridor.
“We’ve been going full steam ahead since 2020,” said Brendon Wheeler, program manager for transportation planning at the Council of Governments. “This recent news from Amtrak on the Dallas-Houston line is coming at a perfect time.”
According to Wheeler, securing environmental clearance by 2024 would substantially bridge the developmental gap between the Fort Worth-Dallas initiative and its Dallas-Houston counterpart—a project that has languished amidst a decade-long series of delays, only to be resuscitated by Amtrak’s announced partnership with Texas Central on August 9, aimed at advancing the 240-mile, 205 mph venture.
One of the pivotal underpinnings of the Fort Worth-Dallas rail project’s viability lies in its seamless integration into a broader, state-wide transport infrastructure, mirroring the model of the interstate highway system. According to Wheeler, the aspiration is to conceive it as a cog in a much grander machine.
Furthermore, the Council of Governments is actively conducting exploratory assessments on additional rail corridors. Notably, a prospective route along the Interstate 35 pathway is under consideration, which would potentially interlink Fort Worth with San Antonio, extending further south to the border city of Laredo.
Fort Worth-Dallas high-speed rail initiative remains in the conceptual stage
As of the present moment, the Fort Worth-Dallas high-speed rail initiative remains in the conceptual stage, absent of definitive financial commitments or investments. However, Wheeler emphasizes that achieving environmental clearance will act as a catalyst, engendering increased investor confidence and facilitating the procurement of essential capital for the project’s realization.
“We’ve heard from several entities that operate high-speed rail around the world, private entities that are interested in funding projects — the major risks that they face coming to the U.S. to try and replicate their success here is they don’t know the federal environmental process like we do, and facing those risks costs money to them,” Wheeler said.
Funding for the Fort Worth-Dallas high-speed rail line will either be fully privately funded or be a public-private partnership.
Upon securing the requisite environmental clearances, the Council of Governments is poised to rekindle dialogues with prospective investors to allocate funding for the burgeoning transportation corridor, a move all the timelier given the resuscitation of the Dallas-Houston high-speed rail initiative. This forthcoming route, once operational, promises to truncate the travel duration between Dallas and Houston to a mere 90 minutes.
“It’s less of a question of if and more of when for something like that to occur, especially as fast as the state of Texas is growing, as fast as the metros for DFW and Houston are growing. Something’s going to happen,” Wheeler said.
An advantage distinguishing the Fort Worth-Dallas proposal from its Dallas-Houston counterpart lies in the publicly owned right-of-way designated for the rail line. The planned corridor, intended to run parallel to the I-30 highway, obviates extensive land acquisition, thereby circumventing a stumbling block that beset the Dallas-Houston initiative, delaying it by a decade or more.
This renewed impetus for the realization of high-speed rail in the Lone Star State coincides fortuitously with an unparalleled climate of investment in national rail infrastructure. Allan Rutter, who helms the freight and investment analysis division at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, emphasized Amtrak’s vested interest in Texas-based rail projects, particularly in light of burgeoning federal allocations geared toward this mode of transport.
That includes at least $66 million from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for rail.
“It makes sense for them to continue a relationship with Texas Central, and it makes sense for Texas to request discretionary grant funding under some of the $66 billion worth of intercity passenger rail money that was in the 2021 infrastructure bill,” Rutter said.
Jason Abrams, the Senior Public Relations Manager for Amtrak, conveyed via email the corporation’s staunch endorsement of Texas’ federal grant applications aimed at actualizing the high-speed rail vision for the Texas Triangle, which interconnects Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.
Rick Harnish, the Executive Director of the High-Speed Rail Alliance, lauded the Council of Governments for their forward-thinking endeavors in securing essential environmental clearances, paving the way for the eventual extension of the high-speed rail line from Fort Worth to the Dallas-Houston axis.
“If the state was interested in carrying people by train, (the Dallas-Houston line and Dallas-Fort Worth line) would be one project,” Harnish said. “It really is a critical piece of making Texas work together better, and it makes the Dallas to Houston project much better, much more valuable.”
Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker applauded the partnership between Amtrak and Texas Central and encouraged high-speed rail along I-30.