July 14--Texas officials are proceeding with planning efforts for two high-speed rail projects -- including one route that would connect Dallas-Fort Worth to Houston, and another to Oklahoma City -- despite concerns that members of Congress might derail the money for flood relief efforts in the Midwest.
"It's embedded in the conversation about raising the debt ceiling," said Tom Shelton, senior program manager with the North Central Texas Council of Governments. "But the money has been awarded to us, subject to a grant agreement, so there's no reason for us to believe that's not going to happen."
The council of governments' high-speed rail subcommittee on Thursday met in Arlington to get the latest updates on the proposed lines, which likely will take years of planning before construction can even be considered. Texas is many years behind other states in planning for trains that someday could travel at 200 mph, and only got serious about the issue two years ago.
The subject of federal funding was only mentioned in passing, as Shelton explained that an agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration authorizing the expenditure of the money would likely be in place within three or four months.
Nationally, $1.5 billion is at stake, including large pots of booty penciled in for California, Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and the Chicago area.
Congressional Republicans have proposed shifting that funding to Midwest disaster relief, but President Obama's administration is holding fast to its plans for spending the dough developing faster passenger rail service between metro areas.
Texas' share is relatively small: $15 million for the North Texas-to-Houston line, and $5.6 million for the North Texas-to-Oklahoma City line. The work involved includes environmental studies and a ridership analysis.
Copyright 2011 - Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas