DALLAS -– Building a high-speed bullet train between Dallas and Houston is proving to be a dreadfully slow process, which fuels skepticism whether it will ever materialize.
“I think you’re talking early 2020s at the earliest,” said Bill Meadows, chairman of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Council.
He is leading the effort to extend the proposed line from Dallas to Fort Worth, with a stop in Arlington.
Meadows provided a public update to 150 local leaders Wednesday in Fort Worth.
High-speed rail remains “a strong possibility. But not a certainty,” Meadows said.
The Texas Central Railway told News 8 it continues to move forward with a proposed 240-mile private railroad between the state’s two largest cities. Not only would it be the first bullet train in the country, the Dallas-based project is also not taking federal grants or public subsidies.
TCR said it still anticipates getting permission to build in late 2017 and selling the first tickets in 2021, though it said the Federal Railroad Administration drives the timeline.
“The North Texas to Houston high-speed rail line is progressing and is still on target to begin construction in late 2017 with first full year of operations in 2022," said Holly Reed, managing director of external affairs for Texas Central Partners. "We are encouraged that the project is on schedule with increasing support from investors and community leaders, and meeting regulatory timelines. The recent submission to the Surface Transportation Board is evidence it is moving forward and complying with all federal regulations.”
But state lawmakers could create obstacles, as well, when they return to Austin in January.
Last legislative session, lawmakers chose not to block the project, but opposition from homeowners along the line in East Texas has increased since then, which could put TCR on the defensive in January.
“There’s no strong opposition we have encountered in this region,” Meadows said. “But it’s certainly possibly the [legislature] could take an action that’s not favorable to high-speed rail.”
On Wednesday, the TCR petitioned the federal Surface Transportation Board for oversight, another step in the lengthy process of getting the project started.
“This request does not seek to remove protections afforded to landowners under Texas law. It merely clarifies the STB procedures that Texas Central must follow and does not change or override any state landowner protections,” TCR said in a statement.
The Environmental Impact Study, underway by the Federal Railroad Administration, is expected to be complete this summer.