The RTC is made up of local elected officials and serves as the policy-making body for the region.
The routes to be evaluated run along I-30 between Dallas and Fort Worth (DFW), with a stop in Arlington, according to the RTC’s website. The high-speed rail technology being considered can operate at up to 250 miles per hour.
Brendon Wheeler, the principal transportation planner for the RTC, told the group that because hyperloop is still a developing technology without a current path for approval and use, it could delay the development of the corridor.
The RTC members voted unanimously to proceed forward with pursuing environmental approval for high-speed rail.
The next step will involve meeting with the federal agencies to determine whether the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) or Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will take the lead in advancing the environmental analysis.
The analysis could take up to two years, depending on the level of environmental study that is required, Wheeler explained to The Texan. A full environmental impact statement could be required, or the federal government might require a less involved environmental analysis since the corridor is intended to be developed within the I-30 right-of-way, he said.
Similar to the California high-speed rail analysis, Wheeler said that the environmental evaluation will encompass the full range of possible high-speed rail technologies. The California project has been plagued by troubles since voters approved bonds funding it in 2008, most recently a $5 billion increase in costs.
The funding for the high-speed corridor analysis, which will likely total about $11 million for all phases, came through the FTA, Wheeler said.
He said that ridership estimates are not currently available, but would be studied more fully during the environmental process. However, he believes ridership will be heavily influenced by whether the DFW high-speed rail project would connect directly to a completed Texas Central project from Dallas to Houston and a future project between Fort Worth and Laredo.
Wheeler believes the RTC is doing something innovative in preparing the way for possible private investment in a high-speed rail between Dallas and Fort Worth in the future. While there is no current funding for the project construction, he believes once the corridor has environmental approval, that will clear the way for investment.
Environmental clearance is often a hurdle for private investors. He pointed out that Texas Central has been attempting their project for a decade. It is currently involved in a case at the Texas Supreme Court to determine its eminent domain authority.
“We are trying, as the public planning sector, to help minimize the risk and attract private investment,” he said, noting that the project could end up being a public-private partnership similar to an airport.
Hyperloop may still come to the region, Wheeler said, as companies are still expressing an interest in building a development and test facility in the area.
The DFW region sought to bring Virgin Hyperloop to the area in 2020, but eventually a site in West Virginia was chosen.
Hyperloop is an autonomous transportation system that could move people or freight by propelling magnetic-levitating vehicle pods through low-pressure tubes at speeds approaching 700 mph. It claims to be safe, fast, and energy-efficient.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.