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TxDOT wants public input on interstate rail project

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Central Texas residents will get a chance next month to weigh in on a potential high-speed passenger rail service that could connect Oklahoma City to South Texas along the Interstate 35 corridor. It might surprise some readers to learn that the Texas Department of Transportation has been collaborating with the Federal Railroad Administration since 2013 on the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study. This week, both agencies published 10 potential service and route options that could end up producing passenger trains that run from Edmond, Oklahoma, all the way down to Brownsville, Texas. Both agencies are working on an environmental impact study that is scheduled to drop next month. For the curious, a copy of the draft EIS is available here. Part of the proposed passenger rail service at first blush might seem like a duplicate of the Lone Star Rail District’s efforts to run passenger trains between Georgetown and San Antonio, but one official told the Austin Monitor that that is not the case. LSTAR Deputy Executive Director Joe Black explained in an email that the Texas-Oklahoma service would serve only a handful of major stops along its lengthy route. “It would actually be complementary, in a sense,” Black said. “Someone could ride from Oklahoma City, say, to a transfer station in the Austin area, and pick up an LSTAR train to San Marcos, New Braunfels, etc.” Of course, that vision is far from a reality. LSTAR is facing a do-or-die vote at the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization next month, and TxDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration are still only drafting the preliminary environmental impact study for the Texas-Oklahoma service. The final version of that document is also expected to drop next month. Here in Austin, the public can weigh in on the draft EIS at an open house and presentation on Aug. 10, 5:30 p.m., at TxDOT’s local district office. If you can’t make it to that meeting, you can weigh in on online here.

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