TxDOT Receives Funding for Other HSR in Texas

The Proposed Dallas to Fort Worth line is an integral part of the overall Texas Rail Plan.  It is also critical to the proposed Dallas to Houston HSR.  So much so, that the Environmental Impact Studies are being run concurrently with a final goal of both lines commencing together in 2021.

In addition, The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has now applied for and received funds for both a Houston to Austin and Fort Worth to Austin HSR lines.  The funding will be used to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Preliminary Engineering (PE).   Both are needed to satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). These recent grant awards REQUIRE State funds to be expended.  Just a reminder that a study is already underway for a rail line running from Oklahoma to south Texas called the Texas Oklahoma Passenger Rail (TOPRS).

I encourage you to read the documents in their entirety.  The ideas promulgated by TxDOT appear to leverage federal government grants, entice private investors (through Public/Private Partnership (PPP) or TCR’s model), skew the ridership numbers, and “share” the risk of failure.  TxDOT has continually sought grant money, is actively pursuing and pushing these “rail” projects….the evidence is clear.

Here is a link to the TxDOT Rail High-speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HISPR) June 2014 documents.

Here is a brief summary for each proposed line;

Austin to Houston (Statement of Work)

  • Funding Breakdown
    • $2.6 million Federal
    • $1 million State
    • $400,000  (H-GAC) Other…Houston-Galveston Area Council
  • Project Schedule- The period of performance for all work will be approximately 33 months, from June 2015 to March 2018 (NOI to be published December 2015).  See schedule under Statement of Work document (pp. 9-11)
  • Project Coordination (p.13 TCR is included in the project coordination)

Fort Worth to Austin (Statement of Work)

  • Funding Breakdown
    • $8 million Federal
    • $2 million State
  • Project Coordination (p. 18-19)
  • Project Schedule-  The period of performance is July 2015 to March 2019.  See schedule under Statement of Work document (pp. 15-17)
  • Business Planning Development p. 14 specifically, “ Additionally, in conjunction with the funding plan, the Grantee will provide a PPP strategy and procurement plan with the aim of maximizing the value from private involvement in the system.  The Grantee will also provide recommendations for passing or sharing risks with private Partner(s) and conducting ad-hoc analyses of the potential costs of benefits of this approach (i.e. Value for Money analysis).  The Grantee will support and provide recommendations for maximizing the value of the private partners’ contribution to the project subject to the State’s and FRA’s overriding policy goals. The Grantee will also assess the potential related private partnerships in coordination with corridor MPO’s and other appropriate agencies.

The Grantee will also develop a high level strategic document focusing on the key options for PPP or Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) procurement.  With the limited capability of the ridership revenue to fund infrastructure in rail projects, the large scale of the costs of high-speed rail service construction and the potential involvement of freight railroads the procurement options will be very project/ alignment specific….”

Be sure to read the Project Narrative.

http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/rail/ftw-aus/project-narrative.pdf

Some specific details that need to be pointed out:

Page 2.  “The Fort Worth to Austin corridor is part of the federally-designated South Central high-speed rail corridor and included in the Texas Rail Plan. It is also consistent and supportive of the regional transportation plans in the Austin and the Dallas/ Fort Worth regions. High-speed rail within the Fort Worth to Austin corridor would reduce vehicular trips along the I-35 corridor, leading to reduced automobile emissions, improved safety, and reduced roadway maintenance costs. Additionally, high-speed rail service would provide a potential lower cost alternative to flying with shorter travel times between the Dallas/ Fort Worth and Austin central business districts.  Providing high-speed rail service between Fort Worth and Austin, with continuing high-speed rail from Fort Worth to Dallas, for which TxDOT is currently completing preliminary engineering and the environmental impact statement (EIS), as well as continuing intercity passenger rail service between Austin and San Antonio planned by the Lone Star Rail District would serve the entire Dallas/ Fort Worth to San Antonio corridor. Furthermore, high-speed rail in this corridor along with plans in development to provide high-speed rail between Dallas and Houston and plans being evaluated for the Austin to Houston corridor, would provide would provide high-speed rail connections amongst all of the major metropolitan regions in the state accessible by over 17 million people.”

***Page 14.” The role of the State for these high-speed rail projects will be to discover risk through the planning and environmental processes in order for private sponsors/ investors to make informed decisions and support the future capital and operating needs for the corridors being studied. The success of this approach is evidenced by the private investor (Texas Central Railway) participation in the Dallas to Houston high-speed rail corridor as described in the executed Memoranda of Understanding between the FRA, TxDOT, and the Texas Central Railway. The Fort Worth to Austin high-speed rail corridor, similarly to the Dallas to Houston corridor, shows potential for private investment.”

Page 19.  Project Delivery Performance 

-References non-federal matching funds for TOPRS (TX Oklahoma Passenger Rail Service).  And have found innovative ways to maximize the use of funds through work completed under existing contracts—

-Restructuring of $15 million grant for Dallas to Houston.

-TxDOT is authorized to enter into a Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDAs) for rail projects.

Page 20. -Innovation/Resource Development

  -TxDOT will take an innovative approach to financing by participating in public-private partnerships to execute the program once planning is complete. The State will administer the planning, environmental documentation, and early design stages of the project in order to identify risks and benefits needed for private sponsors to support the future capital and operating needs of the high-speed rail project.”

-“TxDOT has taken an innovative and proactive approach to ridership modeling and forecasting with the development of its Statewide Ridership Model…”

Page 23.  Assessment of Project Risks ad Mitigation Strategies-Please read the 4 points, but here is a brief summary:

-TxDOT will provide any additional funds required to complete the project.  Upon completion of PE/NEPA, will seek private funding to advance the project.

-will obtain support from local, city, state, and federal leaders whose constituents would benefit from the project to mitigate public support risk.

-“Railroad operating agreements/financial exposure for potential use of existing railroad alignments will be vetted with the respective operating railroads.”

-“Ridership forecasting and revenue projection will include consideration of policies that encourage high-speed rail ridership…”

 

Page 24.  Environmental and Historical Preservation Impacts

-reduction in the amount of existing and prime farmland, the potential losses of natural habitat and systems, noise and vibration, and acquisition of private land.  Environmental benefits such as improvements to air quality and energy efficiencies of high-speed rail are also expected.

Page 25 Costs – $12 Billion Capital, $137 million/year Operating and Maintenance