What do you think? We're going to pose that question to TxDOT officials and others at the Southwestern Rail Conference in Dallas this coming January.
With the Houston-Dallas Core Express project on the horizon, could this be a horse race with California from endpoint to endpoint? Is there enough interest and private financing out there to make it happen? If anyone has questions they would like to pose, please pass them along and we will have that as part of a Q&A.
The conference will be held January 24-25, 2013 in the Grand Hall at Dallas Union Station. Conference information is posted at www.TexasRailAdvocates.org The esteemed Larry Kaufman will be one of the presenters. Aaron Hegeman from BNSF's 3P's is another. Others are to be announced soon. The event will also have two panel discussions: one on Regional Rail in Texas and the other on Short Line Railroads and their issues. The conference is hosted by Texas Rail Advocates and will be held in the Grand Hall at Dallas Union Station.
In a word, yes
What does COMPLETE mean? Connecting all the major cities? A single trunk line connecting two metropolitan areas? In CA this would mean SF Bay Area to LA.
In Texas, not so easy...Pick two metroplex areas, something is left out! A triangle maybe: Houston- Ft Worth; Ft. Worth- El Paso; El Paso-San Antonio-Houston.... Of course the engineering will follow the money/politics.
Texas pumps oil, so does California. National crises might cause sharing of the precious life giving fluid to the levels requiring comprehensive railway links as in days of yore... If the Middle East melts down too quickly, America may shelve HSR in favor of massive rebuild of the intercity rail networks along with the local branch feeder RR lines.
Of course proceed with the primary Metropolitan trunks, but expect a change of emphasis from HSR to 1950's era speeds with much more mileage added much faster. Railroaders should be watching sites like "DEBKAfile" to understand things are about to change...
If the Bible is a bore, then pay attention to plain and simple military posture doings in the oilpatch! America will soon need much more rail capacity & reach; meaning more personnel, equipment, load transfer & breakbulk facilities, etc... The Oil Interregnum will change things, and railroading will be front and center whether comfortable rail execs used to trimming like it or don't!
I agree with Tahoe' that '1950s era speeds' could buy more extensive service for a lot less money. How close operating costs might come to break-even would be the question. Illinois-supported services are around 70%; so implementation of 110-mph service reducing travel time between Chicago and Saint Louis by an hour or more could attract enough ridership to push up that recovery ratio.
Much of the CHI-STL ridership comes from suburban stops and the capital and university small cities on the route. Dallas - Houston has only College Station as an intermediate stop of any consequence other than suburban locations; but Houston - San Antonio could be routed through both College Station and Austin at the cost of a more circuitous route.
I see more opportunities for daytime intrastate services extended to Harlingen-McAllen, Corpus Christi, Odessa, Amarillo, Texarkanna, Beaumont, and Galveston.
As for oil traffic, rail is more expensive than pipeline; but the latter costs more to start up whereas rail has a continental network for distribution; and often the market price differential can offset costs. The Bakken field production in North Dakota is expected to produce a million barrels a day that works out to 14 unit trains spread between different markets. Fields in Pennsylvania and Texas are expected to produce smaller traffic levels spread over existing networks. The increase will mitigate small losses in coal volume; but oil nonetheless may tax capacity and hinder implementation of rail passenger services without costly improvements.
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