Feds, Texas Exploring Upgrades to High-Speed Rail Between OKC, South Texas

Secaucus Junction
An Amtrak train passes through Secaucus Junction in Secaucus, N.J., in February 2016. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

State and federal officials are exploring 10 options for improving high-speed rail service between Oklahoma City and South Texas.

The service will connect Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and South Texas. The 10 options, including seven recommended preferred options, were evaluated in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

“This corridor is home to major financial, energy, and education centers that people rely on every day,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release. “Providing efficient, more reliable, and faster higher-speed passenger rail options to move between cities is crucial for the economy and the population to thrive. I encourage those along the I-35 corridor to participate in the comment and public hearing opportunities so that they are able to learn more and share their input.”

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will take comments on the route options. Four public hearings will give residents a chance to learn about the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study, understand how their communities may be affected and provide comments, officials said.

Current passenger rail service along the Interstate 35 corridor includes three intercity Amtrak services from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth (Heartland Flyer), Fort Worth to San Antonio (Texas Eagle, and Los Angeles to New Orleans via San Antonio (Sunset Limited).

More than 10 million people currently live along the 850-mile corridor, which is expected to grow by 39 percent in Texas and 25 percent in Oklahoma City by 2035.  As a state with some of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation, spread out over hundreds of miles, Texas is now in high demand for alternative modes of transportation.

Since the majority of the state’s population is centered in the eastern half of state, along I-35 stretching into Oklahoma City, the highways have experienced increased congestion.

“More passenger rail service will help relieve already congested roads along the I-35 corridor and help this region manage the significant population growth on the way,” FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg said in a news release. “I encourage everyone to provide feedback on the 10 options that FRA and the Texas DOT have presented to continue moving this effort forward.”

In fiscal year 2012, FRA awarded a $5.6 million grant to TxDOT to fund a study of new and improved passenger rail service to meet future intercity travel demand, improve rail facilities, reduce travel times, and improve connections with regional public transit services as an alternative to bus, plane, and private auto travel.  The Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study evaluates routes and types of service for passenger rail service between Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and South Texas.