Train speeds ahead, guided by 2018’s major milestones

Texas’ high-speed train is closing out a year marked by significant progress, building a new industry with international expertise.

As an example of our headline-grabbing moves forward, a Dallas Business Journal story on the project called the Houston-to-North Texas route the “world’s best place to deploy high-speed rail without subsidies.”

And just this week, a TV report by KERA in Dallas showcased the project’s benefits, saying the train is helping to drive innovation as Texas’ economic might is leading the country into the future.

It is hard to believe that just about a year ago the Federal Railroad Administration released its more than 5,000-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement, identifying a single preferred alignment for the entire route. 

Since then, technical experts using the report’s detailed information have put in thousands of hours, updating the train’s low-impact building plan and ensuring it has minimal effect on communities and the environment.

The project also added several new powerhouse partners, international companies that competed vigorously to be part of the world-class team bringing the first high-speed train to North America and guiding Texas ever closer to a dynamic and much-needed transportation choice.

Among the highlights was the addition of multinational firm Salini Impregilo – operating in the U.S. market with The Lane Construction Corporation and WSP – to lead the civil construction consortium that will build the train’s alignment. Salini and Lane have vast international experience, having built more than 4,000 miles of railway infrastructure in 50 countries.

Also, international railway company Renfe was chosen as the train’s operating partner. Renfe already operates the second-largest railroad system in the world, bringing more than 25 years of experience in operating high-speed trains in Europe and other countries. Renfe operates 5,000 trains daily on 7,500 miles of track, from local commuter routes to high-speed national and international travel.

In May, we announced that Bechtel, a U.S.-based company with an operational headquarters in Houston, will be the project manager. It has global expertise in managing and constructing high-speed train infrastructure and complex, heavy civil projects. That includes more than 300 major train and subway projects, such as the Channel Tunnel High Speed 1, Crossrail in London and Dulles Corridor Metrorail in the Washington, D.C., area.

We also reached agreement with Amtrak, allowing passengers to use Amtrak’s reservation system to buy tickets for through travel on both the high-speed train and Amtrak’s national routes. Texas Central will offer a convenient transfer service connecting riders between Amtrak passenger stations and the high-speed train terminals.

Another highlight was the announcement of passenger stations. More details were unveiled about the Dallas site in the Cedars neighborhood, our preferred station location in Houston, and the Brazos Valley terminal. These developments will be a catalyst for local jobs and economic growth as well as providing a convenient, efficient and direct network for passengers to and from local transit systems in Houston and Dallas.

You can’t look at 2018 without also recognizing the incredible growth we have seen in Texas, especially along this alignment. The state’s population growth has blown past already aggressive predictions, boosting the demand for a safe, reliable and productive link between these exploding economies. Research shows Texans are ready to ride this train, and growth only drives higher the number of potential passengers needing the high-speed connection.

As a capstone to the year, the Texas train was cited as a top infrastructure project by the infrastructure advocacy group CG/LA in its annual strategic report, which identifies the “most imaginative and transformative” North American projects.

The annual review is a product of a rigorous, six-month research and analysis effort in which industry professionals identify projects that represent long-term strategic value. The Texas train was called “a game changer… crucial in advancing public and business interests,” and “the region’s most dynamic and innovative change agent.”

We’re honored by that recognition and look forward to another year, making incredible progress as we work together to keep Texas moving.

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