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High-Speed Rail Firm's Chief: Proposed Line to Be Focus of Public Meetings

A proposed high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston, already the subject of a federal environmental review, will soon be the focus of public meetings in Texas, according to the president of the firm looking to build the line.

The Japanese Shinkansen is a high-speed trail used by JR Central in Japan. A private company is planning to build a rail lin…

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

A proposed high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston, already the subject of a federal environmental review, will soon be the focus of a series of public meetings in Texas, according to the president of the firm looking to build the line.

The Texas Department of Transportation will lead the six meetings next month in Dallas, Houston and other locations in between, Robert Eckels, the head of Texas Central Railway, said Saturday at The Texas Tribune Festival. Residents in the potentially affected regions will be invited to ask questions about the proposal. The meetings will be conducted as part of the federal environmental review.

“We'll talk about alternative routes and the impact on the communities and let people actually see the route on the map," Eckels said. "We'll talk about what our vision is." 

Texas Central is attempting to build a multibillion-dollar direct line between Dallas and Houston that will transport travelers between Dallas and Houston in 90 minutes or less — without public subsidies. Eckels said Saturday that he expects the train to run daily every 30 minutes between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. 

“What we're finding in most of these small towns is that they want this train to come through here," Eckels said. "We're not expecting" a controversy over this.

Eckels was also asked about how much funding had been secured for the estimated $10 billion project — a figure officials announced but haven't committed to.

"I cannot tell you today that we have 100 percent of the project financed because until we complete the environmental process and the design engineering standards, we won’t know," said Eckels, who didn't give specifics on financing. "But I can tell you that there has been millions of dollars spent on investment-grade studies, and the banks are still with us."

Eckels also said it was unlikely that the names of all the private investors in the project would be released, but he did say the Japan Bank for International Cooperation has come in with an initial guarantee of a substantial portion of the debt, which he said had attracted a lot of other investors to the project.

He did not get into details about how many jobs the rail would create, other than saying there could be more than 10,000 jobs largely to come as a result of the project.

"We’re hesitant to get into the exponential numbers of the jobs because it’s so hard to explain to people and — how do you know?" he said. "But we do know it will be transformational for Texas."

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