March 13, 2013 (Austin) - Special to Texas Rail Advocateswww.texasrailadvocates.org
The Rail Division of the Texas Department of Transportation has scheduled 12 public scoping meetings as it proceeds to work on an Intercity Passenger Rail plan between Oklahoma and South Texas.The meetings, scheduled for this month and April, will give the public a chance to voice what they would like to see in future passenger rail service.
The list of meeting locations and dates are on a new TxDOT Website: www.TXOKrail.org. Under the "More Information" section, choose "Get Involved" for cities where the public forum will occur.
Mark Werner from the TxDOT Rail Division indicated that "We are excited to invite you to a series of 12 scoping open houses that will be held the last week of March and first week of April for the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study (TOPRS). As you may know, the study will evaluate a range of passenger rail service options in an 850-mile corridor from Oklahoma city to south Texas, concluding in a service-level environmental impact statement (EIS)."TXDOT has prepared a flyer that describes the scope of the public meetings. It describes how Texas' population and economy are booming with much of its growth occurring in the already congested IH-35corridor. While the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) continues to look at roadway improvements to keep all of us and our economy moving, other options, such as passenger rail service, fit the needs of many travelersand would reduce demand on the state's roadways.Through the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study (TOPRS), TxDOT will consider how passenger rail service could fit into this corridor. TOPRS will evaluate a range of passenger rail service options in an 850-mile corridor from Oklahoma City to south Texas and will conclude with a service-level environmental impact statement (EIS). The study will consider the corridor as a whole, as well as within three segments:. Oklahoma City to Dallas/Fort Worth. Dallas/Fort Worth to San Antonio. San Antonio to Rio Grande Valley / CorpusChristi / LaredoBecause the corridor extends north of the Red River to Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) is an important partner in the study. In addition, transit service providers, railroads, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and cities and counties, as well as community members.During scoping, the first step in the EIS process,TxDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will invite the public to provide input about what shouldbe studied in the service-level EIS. During the scoping period, TxDOT will accept public comments in writing, through the TOPRS website, and at public meetings held throughout the corridor. After the public scoping period ends on April 26, 2013,TxDOT will compile all comments received and determine the scope of the EIS.The Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study (TOPRS) is expected to be completed in 24 months. It will document the costs, benefits, and impacts of rail service alternatives compared to a no-build alternative in a service-level environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS, a federally required document that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), will provide a high-level review of rail needs and potential service options in the corridor. The study could conclude with a decision to advance individual projects for more detailed study or a decision against making further investments in passenger rail in the corridor.Before any identified project could be constructed, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) would need to complete additional environmental review and identify funding.