By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
Tired of crowded conditions on U.S. Interstate Highway 35?
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) may have a solution.
TxDOT is considering high speed passenger rail service to alleviate congestion along the 850 mile I-35 corridor between Oklahoma City and South Texas. High speed rail is defined by TxDOT as being a rail service operating at speeds of at least 125 miles per hour as a nonstop or with limited stops between cities.
A two-year on-going rail study that began in the fall of 2012 is part of a national focus to increase high speed rail service across the nation. By focusing on the corridor connecting major cities of Oklahoma City, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio, the study will determine how changes in passenger rail service would affect this highly traveled thoroughfare of Texas.
"What we know is drivers spend way too many hours sitting in traffic on major roadways,” TxDOT spokesman Veronica Beyer said in a news release.
Projections for the future appear to only get worse as average speeds on I -35 between Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and San Antonio are expected to drop from 55 miles per hour to 15 miles per hour according to the Federal Railroad Administrations entry part of the study.
Transportation officials held 12 open houses along the corridor in order to receive the public’s input on possible improvements. The meetings were held during the past two weeks. Comments about the study will be accepted through April 26. These comments can be mailed directly to Mark Werner, Rail Division, Texas Dept. of Transportation at 125 E. 11th St. Austin, Texas 78701-2483 or by calling (512) 486 5137 for more information.
Bill Glavin, director of the state TxDOT rail division said the study will cost about $11 million, partly funded by a Federal Railroad Administration $5.6 million grant.
He also stated that no new actions could be proposed at the end of the study period.
The Texas-Oklahoma part of the study will look at the individual needs of the corridor: Oklahoma City to the Dallas Fort Worth area, DFW to San Antonio and San Antonio to South Texas.
Since completion of a similar study in California, officials there will begin working on the first part of a $68 billion bullet train rail that will eventually connect northern and southern California with train speeds up to 220 miles per hour.
At those speeds, travel from Oklahoma City to Dallas — a 4-hour trip by car — would take approximately one hour.
Amtrak rail service currently includes the Heartland Flyer which runs daily between Oklahoma City, Okla. and Fort Worth with a morning stop in Gainesville.
Future high speed train service would offer day trips to train enthusiasts directly to the Gainesville area and for those that do not have access to other means of transportation to and from the north Texas area.