It’s a high-speed ease of life that people in Europe and Japan take for granted. Bullet trains zoom one around the country — or continent — and it’s fast and easy to travel long distances without a car.
The quest to bring a bullet train to Texas, on the other hand, is anything but simple. But at least this ambitious, and some would argue ultimately star-crossed, mission is moving forward. Even if it’s not at bullet train speed. The latest twist in the under-planning development of high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas is that a major part of the route has been decided.
It’s a decision that likely will not please those who love the European system. For the Houston-to-Dallas bullet train will not stop in downtown Houston. Instead, the end of the line is now slated to be the Northwest Mall area situated by the intersection of U.S. 290 and Loop 610.
In other words, most people will have to drive and park to take the uber-fast train.
The Federal Railroad Administration vetoed both route plans that would take the high-speed train into Houston, for environmental reasons. The impact such routes would have on Heights Boulevard Esplanade — a designated historic district site — was deemed too great.
This does not eliminate the convenience a Texas bullet train could bring. The trip to Dallas on the 205-MPH trains is expected to take only 90 minutes. That’s longer than flying (once you’re through the sometimes-endless airport hassles/delays and are actually in the air). But it’s obviously much shorter than a drive that often morphs into a five-hour-plus chore with traffic.
The bullet trains planned for Texas are cutting-edge Japanese Tokaido Shinkansen N700A models. Besides the 200-plus MPH speed, the plush trains are marked by cushy seats and Wi-Fi. Approximately 400 people can fit on one train. Texas Central Partners, a new Dallas-based company, is powering the train push.
The company projects that the whole Dallas-to-Houston high-speed train enterprise will cost $10 to $12 billion, but railway experts peg the actual price as likely ending up much higher. Texas Central Partners has already raised $75 million for the 240-mile route. The hope is that construction will begin by 2017 and bullet trains will be running by 2021 or 2022.
The future still has a ways to go. And undoubtably, more potential speed bumps ahead.