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Houston Rep. promises high-speed rail in TX

Feasibility concerns remain

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Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has vowed to build a high-speed rail system in the Lone Star State, despite continued partisan delays and fiscal constraints, according to The Houston Chronicle:

During an industry summit on Wednesday, Jackson Lee described the potential Texas rail system as a job creator and a pro-environment measure.

“I frankly believe trains are part of America’s past and America’s future,” the Democrat from Houston said. “… I want us making trains again, high speed trains again.”

But some fellow lawmakers think Jackson Lee is promising something she can’t deliver.

Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told the audience shortly before Jackson Lee spoke that they’re “pipe dreaming” if they think high-speed rail projects across the country will come to life soon in light of the nation’s deficit.

“You’re smoking something funny if you think it’s going to get easier with the next Congress,” the Florida Republican said.

Texas has received $15 million to begin engineering and environmental work on a high-speed rail link connecting Houston and Dallas. The Federal Railroad Administration awarded the state this grant as part of $2 billion it gave to 22 high-speed inter-city passenger rail projects in 15 states.

The US High Speed Rail Association, the event’s organizer, had calculated the Texas system would operate starting 2015, according to the association’s map that projects routes across the county up until 2030.

At the conference, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood describe high-speed rail as the next generation of transportation.

“We’re committed to this; there’s no going back,” LaHood said. “We need to keep the momentum going.”

But congressional Republicans, including some who have previously supported high-speed rail, are resisting the measure.

President Obama proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 allocates $2.7 billion for high-speed rail. The suggested funds would be added to the more than $8 billion provided under a stimulus bill that passed when Democrats controlled the House and Senate.

Mica now faces a potential multi-billion dollar transportation bill wreck in part, thanks to the high-speed rail deadlock.

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