High-speed rail project in Texas gets high-level US, Japan support

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The White House said in a Wednesday fact sheet that the DOT and Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism “welcomed Amtrak’s leadership of the Texas Central High Speed Rail Project.”

The proposed railway would connect Dallas and Houston using the Central Japan Railway Company’s Shinkansen technology. The White House statement was released during the official visit of Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, signaling support for the project from the highest levels of the two nations’ governments.

“I think there is enormous potential in this vision,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said of the Texas Central project in an April 7 interview aired on NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. He called the Dallas-Houston corridor “an excellent candidate for high-speed rail,” citing the population’s distribution across the region. “You have two major population centers that are a long drive or a very short flight away from each other.”

Planning for the 240-mile bullet train route goes back at least 10 years, when the Federal Railroad Administration began the environmental review process, which was completed in 2020. Amtrak and Texas Central Partners said in August they were looking into a potential partnership to move the project forward.

“Having Amtrak involved gives the project some gravitas,” US High Speed Rail Association President and CEO Andy Kunz told Smart Cities Dive. But he also pointed out that Amtrak has little history in developing new rail lines. “Whether or not they can deliver a $20 billion project is a question,” he said.

The project received a federal planning grant in December, and the White House’s recent statement said, “The successful completion of development efforts and other requirements would position the project for potential future funding and financing opportunities.”

The project has some Republican support in Congress. In a November hearing of a subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, said, “I like the idea of that rail line between Houston and Dallas.”

But the Houston Chronicle reported Friday that Texas Central owes $623,000 in delinquent property taxes and faces a lawsuit filed in the Texas Supreme Court by nine county attorneys. Some landowners along the route have objected to property acquisitions by the railroad, especially with construction stalled.

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