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Texas-Oklahoma passenger rail options discussed

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 31, 2013 at 1:29 pm •  Published: March 31, 2013

DALLAS (AP) — Transportation officials are studying the feasibility of adding high speed passenger rail service to alleviate road congestion along an 850-mile corridor extending from Oklahoma City into South Texas.

The Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study, part of a national push to get more high speed rail lines across the country, is looking at how changes to passenger rail service would affect the Interstate 35 corridor that includes Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.

"What we know is drivers spend way too many hours sitting in traffic on major roadways," said Veronica Beyer, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

The traffic problem is projected to get much worse in the coming decades. By 2035, average speeds on the stretch of I-35 between the Dallas-Fort Worth area and San Antonio are expected to drop to 15 mph from 55 mph, according to the Federal Railroad Administration's Federal Register entry on the study.

Transportation officials started holding meetings in communities along the corridor last week to get the public's input on how to improve rail options. Comments will be accepted through April 26.

Bill Glavin, director of TxDOT's rail division, said options up for discussion include where stops might be, what speeds the trains would travel, frequency of service and whether new lines would be built or existing ones improved. And, he adds, there's the possibility they'll propose no new action at the end of the study period.

Glavin said the study will cost about $11 million, funded in part by a $5.6 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration.

The study, which started in the fall and is due to wrap up in December 2014, will look at funding options as well as ranges of potential costs and revenues. In California this summer, officials will start work on the first stretch of track for a $68 billion bullet train that will eventually link Northern and Southern California with trains traveling up to 220 mph.

Henry Wulff, president of the Texas Association of Railroad Passengers, which wants to see "more trains, more often in more of Texas," said he hopes to attend the public meeting on the study being held this week in his South Texas town of Harlingen.

He said that with no passenger train service to South Texas, he has to make the four-hour drive to San Antonio.

"The important thing for us now is to see what the results of the study show," he said.

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