All aboard the high-speed express

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

Five hours. It can take up to five hours to get from Houston to Dallas on Interstate 45. Sometimes five and a half or six depending on how long you get stuck in traffic. And you will get stuck in traffic, especially with all the construction that seems to have been going on forever.

Now imagine that instead of driving five hours from Houston to Dallas, or vice versa, you could sit back and enjoy a 90-minute train ride between Texas’ two biggest metropolitan areas.

Texas Central Railroad is very close to making that happen as it plans to begin construction of a 240-mile high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas by next year.

The project will adapt a version of the trains used by Japan’s Tokaido Shinkansen line, which has had zero passenger fatalities or injuries since it began operating in 1964. Texas Central Railroad also plans to bring in Italian civil-engineering contractor Salini Impregilo to do the design work and Spanish firm RENFE, who runs Spain’s high-speed trains, to be the system operator.

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas Central has already received two key rulings from the U.S Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration in terms of the regulatory framework and the environmental review.

Here’s why I think this project will be great for Texas:

I-45 is not only one of the most annoying roads to drive on, it is also the most dangerous in the state and the second deadliest in the country.

Not only will the rail line decrease traffic, it will also decrease carbon emissions substantially since the trains will be electric. According to a report by the U.S. department of Energy, intercity and transit rail travel is more energy efficient than driving and flying. Electric trains are also more efficient than diesel trains.

Having an easier way to travel across the state will also be good for the economy as people will find it easier to commute between the state’s two largest cities. It would be faster, safer and easier for people to live in one city and work in the other.

But as always, there are groups of people opposed to the project despite all the good it could do for Texas and possibly the country. A large number of these groups are made up of landowners who are trying to prevent Texas Central form using the eminent domain process to acquire land.

Some of those who oppose have also said that although Texas Central has promised the project is independently funded, they are afraid that they will need to ask for public funds due to their “shaky financial projections.”

“The lawmakers, landowners and rural communities along the route who oppose this project look forward to this [STB] application process because we believe it will finally force TCR to publicly disclose their shaky financial projections to the STB, reveal why potential investors have abandoned the project and why taxpayers will likely be on the hook when it ultimately fails,” U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady said in the Tribune’s article.

Now, my issue with the opposition is that their arguments seem to founded mainly in how bad the project will be for the Texas economy. Even if the project experiences some hiccups, I believe that it will end up improving the economy in the long run.

The arguments that the opposition to the project has used in service of their cause against Texas Central make we wonder, what do they have to gain from the failure of high-speed rail? Why are they so opposed to giving up a small piece of land for the overall good of the state?

And I’m not saying that the project doesn’t have flaws that should definitely be addressed before construction begins, but instead of outright opposing high-speed rail, the opposition should look into how it would benefit Texas in the long run.