According to a study on HSR in France and China by the International Union of Railways, “the carbon footprint of HSR can be up to 14 times less carbon intensive than car travel and up to 15 times less than aviation travel, even when measured over the full life cycles of planning, construction and operation of the different transport modes.”
The Texas high-speed train, with its small footprint and significantly lower emissions per passenger mile, will help handle Texas’ growth more efficiently and relieve stress on the environment. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) highlighted the need for the high-speed train in its comprehensive environmental report, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), released in December 2017. The document, nearly 4 years in the making, identifies the FRA’s preferred route for the North Texas-to-Houston line, the locations of the three passenger stations and highlights the Railroad’s environmentally friendly design and construction techniques.
“As an alternative transportation mode, [the Texas train] is supported by several factors, including population growth, congestion of the state transportation system and safety,” the DEIS said. “Travel demand is increasing and the existing transportation infrastructure is not able to accommodate this growing demand between Dallas and Houston.”
The DEIS provides assurances that all environmental issues are being addressed in the best way for communities and the environment.
- This technology is entirely electric.
- Texas high-speed trains utilize regenerative braking technology to recapture spent energy.
- High-speed trains will provide an attractive alternative to hundreds of thousands of auto passengers every year.
- Fewer cars on the road mean less emissions and contaminants that harm air and water quality.
- High-speed trains emit just 1/12th the amount of carbon as a typical commercial jet.
- Approximately 100 to 500 feet of right-of-way needed for train system and facilities.
- 52% of the route will be adjacent to existing infrastructure.
- The railroad will lead to net reductions of Nitrous Oxide (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC), and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
- Zero noise impacts would occur from station activities.
- More than a 200% increase in vehicular traffic is expected on Interstate 45 between Dallas and Houston by 2035.
- The train would remove 14,630 vehicles per day on I-45 between Houston and Dallas.
- By reducing vehicle travel, the train would save 81.5 million gallons of gasoline.
A Single Route
Multiple corridors for the train were evaluated before the FRA identified the Utility Corridor as its preferred route, based on environmental, engineering and construction considerations.
Within the preferred corridor, 21 individual routes were studied, six of which were identified for further environmental study. The DEIS then identified a single, preferred route – called Build Alternative A – based on these detailed analyses.
Environmental advantages of the identified route:
- Fewest acres of wetlands impacted permanently.
- Fewest businesses displaced.
- Fewest number of land parcels required.
- Fewest agricultural structures acquired.
- Fewest impacts to socioeconomic, natural, physical and cultural environments.
- Least acreage of permanent impacts.
- “Would not result in a significant impact of loss to crop yields, livestock, or the state agricultural economy.”
- Alternative A would have neutral or beneficial impact on most visual landscapes.
Respect for the Land, Communities, and Wildlife
To minimize its impact, much of the Texas train will run on elevated tracks and berms adjacent to existing infrastructure. There will be no “at-grade crossings,” which means the train will never cross traffic, allowing for free movement of wildlife, pedestrians and vehicles. These design features will make it easier to avoid negatively impacting streams, wetlands, floodplains and other natural and cultural features. Furthermore, there will be silt fences and straw bales installed during construction to minimize runoff into any nearby bodies of water, wetlands, roads or other sensitive areas. And, at completion, the vegetation will be restored along with other erosion control measures, as needed.
Sounds of the Train
Through decades of applied research and continuous improvement, Shinkansen trains are among the lightest and quietest in the world.
They have a sound pattern that is quieter and less frequent than traffic on many roads and highways. The DEIS found that noise levels in Texas would be reduced through specific shielding methods, and when necessary, the project will incorporate design elements to minimize sound and vibration impacts.