Excerpt from Passenger Rail Symposium held in Los Angeles
Posted May 28, 2010 at http://la.streetsblog.org/2010/05/28/passenger-rail-symposium-day-2-stations-and-sprinters/
Ross Milloy of the Lone Star Rail District between Austin and San Antonio came to give a talk about his project. Milloy began by lamenting that "the last generation built all kinds of [mostly car related] infrastructure, and this generation doesn't even want to pay for the infrastructure we have."
New train projects are a tough sell in the Lone Star State, but Milloy has shrewdly built support for his new rail line by appealing to the one thing Texans love most: Texas. He outlined the need for congestion relief in Austin and San Antonio, which is made more acute by rapidly increasing freight truck and rail traffic from Mexico to the East Coast. Thus, the project includes relief for both commuters and freight rail; it would convert a freight rail line to exclusively commuter rail, and build an entirely new freight route to the east.
Talks with the freight rail companies have proven difficult; Milloy's account was that "they made the Mideast negotiations look like a tupperware party." But progress is nevertheless being made, Lone Star Rail has managed to leverage some $500 million at this point, which when spent toward dedicated infrastructure tends to make rail companies more cooperative.
Ultimately, Lone Star Rail appears to be leaning toward Metrolink-style locomotive powered trains instead of Sprinters. But the fact that Texas is moving toward a more robust train system is encouraging news; it has been one of the last major car-dependent states to change course.