Opportunities and challenges for high-speed rail corridors in Texas
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Texas features a growing economy and population. The state boasts a large and well-developed network of roads, freight railroads, and air facilities, which make the state a vital link in the movement of people and goods. However, as the state continues to grow in population and economic significance, these systems are straining to meet state, national, and even global needs. It is increasingly obvious to residents and state officials that Texas should consider implementing alternative modes of transport, including development of passenger rail, for which Texas currently lags behind many of its peer states. Passenger rail provides quantifiable benefits in displacing less energy-efficient and higher pollutant-emitting air and automobile modes while generating potential positive economic impacts and enhancing consumer choice and multimodalism. Conveniently, renewed national interest in rail has invigorated research measuring the applicability of passenger rail services to many different regions of the United States, with the possibility that future national transportation visions will include passenger rail as an essential element. This thesis seeks to clarify the potential for passenger rail specifically in Texas through comparison and contrast with other regions and nations in the midst of new national-level knowledge and the changing transportation opportunities and challenges facing the state. Some of the ideal characteristics of successful international passenger systems exist in Texas, including optimal city spacing and a well-established rail network, which have fuelled ongoing interest demonstrated by various system proposals for high-speed intercity transportation in Texas over the last four decades. Despite these characteristics, the state presents a number of barriers to rail transport rooted in low transit use coupled with generally lower density and ambivalent support from politicians and residents when officials present realities of eminent domain and land use changes. However, with revitalized national rail interest and new federal rail planning requirements, the state may yet be able to work through these challenges to exploit the opportunities the state possesses.