The US High Speed Rail Association (USHSRA) has released its vision for the country’s high-speed rail network. The association, which was established earlier this year, envisions 17,000 miles of track completed in four phases between 2015 and 2030. The trains would run at speeds of 220 miles per hour, and the group estimates that the system would cost between $800 billion and $900 billion.
The first phase would include a line connecting Houston, San Antonio, and Austin to Dallas, with the second phase in 2020 connecting Houston to San Antonio and New Orleans. The third phase, in 2025, would connect Dallas to Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, and Jackson, MS, and the final phase would connect Dallas to Little Rock.
The vision is significantly more ambitious than the current federal plan, which calls for a more limited system focusing on the most populous regions of the country. The USHSRA plan, by comparison, includes stops throughout the South and in several parts of the interior West. The federal plan also does not link Houston to the rest of Texas.
However, the plan also differs from what Texas officials are promoting. Instead of a triangle-shaped route connecting the state’s largest cities - a plan that failed in the 1990s - officials are calling for a “Texas T-Bone” route that would link San Antonio and Austin to Dallas and Fort Worth, with an intersecting line running between Houston and Fort Hood.
USHSRA appears to be a grassroots organization created as interest in high-speed rail skyrocketed earlier this year following the stimulus package. The Obama administration included $8 billion in stimulus funds for high-speed rail, and President Obama has called for an additional $1 billion each year over the next five years, while Congress appears ready to allocate more than that. In addition, the current House transportation bill would include $50 billion over five years to fund high-speed rail. That bill, however, appears unlikely to pass this year.
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