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Gulf Coast Rail District pursuing Hempstead commuter rail study

Trains could run in 5 years

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The Gulf Coast Rail District will use $715,000 in stimulus funds for a nine-month study of a commuter rail line to Hempstead, according to the Houston Chronicle. The agency hopes to use the study to obtain federal funding for the 40-mile project.

The Gulf Coast Rail District, METRO, and the City of Galveston have been competing over which agency should build commuter rail in the region. The proposed line would start near the intersection of US 290 and the 610 Loop, where it would tie into the METRO light rail network, although the exact interaction remains unclear. The Chronicle notes, “The Gulf Coast Rail District would also need to strike a deal with the Metropolitan Transit Authority because the commuter rail line alone will not complete most commutes.” New mayor Annise Parker has questioned whether METRO has the money to build the Uptown light rail line, which would connect to the commuter rail.

The commuter trains would use an existing freight rail line and could begin service within five years. Commuter trains would run during the day and freight trains would use the tracks at night. The Houston-Galveston Area Council estimates the entire project would cost $348 million.

Gulf Coast Rail District Chairman Mark Ellis and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett both lauded the study as an important milestone. Emmett told the Chronicle, “It’s a real step as opposed to people just talking about it, and real money is being spent to get this process moving.”

(Photo credit: sahmeditor)

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