The Texas Department of Transportation presented results from a study on the potential for new 110 mph passenger rail service between Houston and Austin, potentially connecting College Station, according to Guidry News and documented in the minutes of the December 16 minutes of the Transportation Policy Council.
The study looked at 4 potential alignments, with the following estimated costs and trip times:
- Austin to Houston directly ($972 million - 2hr 45 minutes).
- Austin to Hempstead, with connecting spur service to Bryan / College Station ($1.255 billion - 3hr 51 minutes).
- Austin to Giddings to Bryan / College Station to Hempstead to Houston (a little over $1.149 billion - 3hr 15 minutes).
- Austin to Brenham to Hempstead to Houston, with a spur to Bryan / College Station ($1.213 billion - 3hr 38 minutes).
All routes assumed two round trip options daily with one train each leaving from Houston and Austin in the morning and evening.
All routes assume that they would not actually be a single ride between the centers of the cities, but would connect to commuter rail systems that some are advocating in each region to go from Austin to Elgin and Houston to a suburban location along 290.
Any plans for intercity rail from Houston to Austin depend upon the connections to the urban cores, according to Harris County Public Infrastructure Department Executive Director Art Storey:
“When you’re in the mass transit / public transportation business, the cheapest option is not always the best option. Sometimes when you’re there, it’s best to spend a little more money and do a little more. I would caution that the cheapest option is not necessarily the best option. The second thing is that I think its great that we’re studying this, but that does leave the hard part. You’re not anywhere when you get to Hempstead in terms of the ridership that would use this facility, so there has to be a lot of coordination. If anything, I think it focuses on the importance of what the Rail District is doing, because that is the hard part, getting from 610 to downtown. And if you don’t get there, you don’t really have the ridership that is going to justify this whole thing.”
Details derived from audio of meeting, recorded by Guidry News (mp3).
Image of route options from TXDOT presentation (png):