SAN ANTONIO — They say everything is bigger in Texas, but one exception to that rule might be train travel. And the more that the Lone Star State grows, the more its newest residents are wondering: Why?
“Suburban commuter or regional rail or even intercity passenger rail. The more people are moving to Texas, the more they’re saying, 'Why don’t we have that kind of system here?'” said Peter LeCody, president Texas Rail Advocates.
After 22 years with the group and consulting with TxDOT on several advisory committees, LeCody says a new push for expanded rail service in Texas might be catching steam.
“This is kind of a mindblowing thing for us that TxDOT is actually applying for what we call 'expressions of interest,'" he said.
Transportation officials' vision, if fulfilled, would expand rail service from San Antonio to Houston, and give Bexar County residents an opportunity to travel to the Rio Grande Valley via train.
And TxDOT has expressed interest in using federal dollars to make the vision a reality. This month, the department sent a letter to the federal railroad administration asking for funding to expand and create new intercity rail options, connecting San Antonio to other cities like Austin, Houston and Dallas.
Some services already exist, but travel only a few times a week.
It’s not clear if the plan means building new rail systems or improving the existing infrastructure. It’s also unknown how much money, if any, the Federal Railroad Administration will give for these proposals.
“They’re the ones that will decide, along with the U.S. Department of Transportation, who’s going to get the funding, but Texas now at least is in the race,” LeCody said, adding Texas has missed out on billions of dollars for rail-related projects in the past.
He now hopes expansion of rail services could slow down the races we see daily on the roads.
“We just can’t keep pouring concrete and asphalt and widening highways and, as I understand, even trying to double-deck them in the future. Is that a viable option or do we need to look at different modes of transportation”
Federal authorities have received these requests from groups and cities all over the country.
This is only the first step, and it might be a few years before these services are up and running—if the projects receive federal approval.