Planning for the rail component of the Trans Texas Corridor must be consistent with statewide, regional and urban transportation needs. This section sets out infrastructure recommendations for both high-speed passenger rail and conventional commuter and freight rail service.
Also touched on are partnering, the need for adequate
connectivity within the corridor and new technologies that need to be
When completed, the rail component of the Trans Texas Corridor will:
people of Texas the ability to travel by commuter and high-speed rail. In turn, this will reduce traffic congestion.
additional freight (both rail and truck) capacity, greatly enhancing the state’s ability to accommodate the
movement of goods to market.
companies with new markets.
safety and air quality in Texas’ larger urban areas by diverting freight and hazardous material shipments from densely populated areas.
more railroad track than any other state—11,218 miles.
second in the number of operating freight railroads.
infrastructure in Texas generally is owned and operated by private interests.
carrying the highest volume of freight and passengers between and through Texas cities already have been identified.
working relationships exist between state and local transportation agencies and private transport interests.
A wealth of
public and private intellectual expertise is available for large-scale project development.
policies that may be affected by the corridor need to be identified through regional planning.
to be developed for both rail and trucking companies to efficiently use the corridor.
connectivity to Mexico and other states’ transportation
The success of commuter rail relates directly to the convenience
and economy of the service provided. Links to central business
districts, schools, tourist attractions and employment must be established.
To attract freight shipments from private rail lines, the
economic advantages. New trackage would enable railroad operators to divert overflow from crowded trunk lines, improving efficiency.
between rail and truck modes. Both industries should benefit from corridor development.
opportunities to serve new markets.
Success will require new partnering agreements as well as
forward thinking and comprehensive design elements.
Following development of the corridor, abandoning existing rail
lines would be a consideration. Present procedures for abandonment result in short-line rail operators, rural rail transportation
districts, or the state having to raise funds to preserve rail lines for
local shippers, commuter rail or other transportation uses. Railroads cannot quickly abandon lines without the permission of the Surface Transportation Board.
However, in the end, the Class I railroads (lines with operating revenue exceeding $260 million in 2000) will want to improve their profitability by selling low-volume lines. This could be accomplished by selling them intact to other rail interests or
by salvaging the line for the value of the steel rails. Any
legislation to implement the Trans Texas Corridor would need to consider the effect this scenario may have on existing shippers, local
economies and state funds.
The rail component of the Trans Texas Corridor requires
long-range planning and detailed preparation, all done with vision,
ingenuity, cooperation and discipline. To that end, rail development strategies cover planning consistency, infrastructure,
partnering, development and systems connectivity.
Significant public involvement will be needed to implement a project of this magnitude. One of the most important lessons learned from the Texas High Speed Rail Authority’s efforts in
the 1990s was that such a project couldn’t be accomplished without grass-roots public support. The public must be:
Specific designs for the rail portions of the corridor can only
be determined by in-depth traffic volume analyses of the various transportation modes, and the amount of traffic that might be diverted from existing transportation networks. This information then can be used to design and build viable transportation
systems while leaving room for future expansion.
In areas not needing dedicated commuter tracks, commuter and freight rail can share infrastructure where scheduling will
allow. Crossovers with high-speed turnouts should link all commuter and freight tracks at strategic points to:
High-speed passenger rail will:
from freight movements.
along immediate right of way for system integrity and safety.
mediating structures on overhead bridges to prevent anything from falling or being thrown onto the tracks.
passenger stations next to the tracks and provide overhead facilities for transferring passengers and baggage from outside the corridor to boarding platforms.
stations with commuter rail (where stops coincide) to allow the efficient transfer of passengers without interruption
or interaction with the freight system.
infrastructure designed to accommodate 200-mph trains to prevent having to re-invest in major improvements for faster trains in the future.
rails, ties and fasteners, with electrification for high-speed equipment.
Be run with
"dedicated trainsets," that is, when the trains reach the end of a route they reverse direction and return to the
point of origin.
maintenance and repair facilities built at key points along the network to service equipment.
Dual purposes for commuter rail
As previously mentioned, commuter rail operations depend on the convenience and economy of the service provided. Achieving a high level of usage will require seamless transportation options
to and from commuter stations throughout the urban areas. These will be connected to central business districts and other
be placed along the outside tracks except where commuter and high-speed services intersect. This will make their construction less expensive than those jointly shared with high-speed rail.
possible, track will be shared with freight rail to reduce costs.
trainsets, with equipment serving assigned routes and schedules, will be required.
maintenance and servicing facilities will be located at strategic points along the corridor segments.
For all parties to work together on this endeavor, the benefits
to all sides must clearly outweigh the private benefits of keeping the Texas rail system status quo.
From the perspective of the Class I carriers owning the existing systems, there will need to be:
The following situations would attract Class I carriers:
maintain optimum speed. This would allow freight trains to move more quickly and efficiently than on existing infrastructure. Due to the performance limitations of rolling stock, current speeds for freight rail generally are limited to
50 mph or less. Tracks designed for high-speed freight would allow trains to operate at 80 mph.
user fees for companies with parallel facilities.
Note: Usage fees that absorb the gains made in transit times will
eliminate the corridor as a viable alternative to existing lines.
avoid congested urban areas currently nearing their rail capacity.
potential increases in the volume of rail cars moved.
Note: Diversion of North American Free Trade Agreement freight from the highways could readily increase the need for freight rail capacity. Constructing corridor segments along
recognized NAFTA traffic routes with intermodal terminals at originating and destination points, coupled with appropriate user fees, likely will make those corridor routes more
successful and more heavily utilized by railroads.
interchange systems to get shipments on and off the corridor. Note: Freight loads and empties must be picked up and dropped off where appropriate. A detailed study of rail-freight traffic flow would determine where interchanges could occur, and where interchange yards need to be built to support the freight system.
Designing for the optimal use of competing modes along the
corridor will require considerable preparation.
Benefits to be gained from diverting long-distance truck hauls onto freight lines include:
driver safety. By having long-distance freight sent by rail, truckers would cover the shorter ends of the trips from intermodal pick-up sites to ultimate destinations.
current jobs. Truck drivers still would be needed, but they would be making a greater number of shorter trips.
of intermodal unit trains. These allow the entire truck and cab to be loaded onto a flat rail car. Switzerland’s "rolling autobahn" allows truck drivers to accompany their
shipments on night hauls through the Alps. This reduces driver fatigue, vehicle deterioration, highway deterioration and
circumvents a prohibition of nighttime truck movements.
Important lessons can be taken from the successful on-time,
on budget development of the Alameda Corridor in California. That $2.4 billion dollar project is a public-private venture touted
as one of the nation’s most significant transportation achievements. It
cuts through 20 miles of urban congestion to relieve a bottleneck between the country’s busiest port and the downtown rail yards
of Los Angeles. Running through eight cities, it required consensus from two competing ports, rival rail companies, and multiple
levels of elected officials. Funding included a $1.6 billion bond
issue, a $400 million federal loan, $394 million from the port
authorities, and $347 million in grants administered by the county
It is likely that the Trans Texas Corridor will need to be a
managed toll facility. Some methods to encourage use of such facilities
by trucking are:
additional costs to long-distance trucking over highways other than the Trans Texas Corridor.
the Trans Texas Corridor for trucks and for vehicles hauling hazardous cargo.
computerized tagging systems to provide unimpeded progress.
Finally, Texas port authorities should be included in the design
and implementation of the corridors. Assuming diversion of freight
to the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation is one
of the policies behind corridor development, then freight-barge
movements along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway from Brownsville to Houston might need to be included in the plan.
Corridor connectivity to the general railroad systems of Texas,
the United States and Mexico is necessary. There will need to be:
transfer facilities at viable connection points. These will depend upon the estimated number of lifts per month.
Access to the
international trade coming through Texas ports and border crossings.
customs check points to ease choke points in border communities.
Rail crossings on the Texas-Mexico border handle about 80
percent of the rail traffic between the two countries. These crossings are expected to continue increasing in number because of capital investments and improvements made by the private rail companies on both sides of the border. These improvements will streamline crossing procedures and increase the capacity for rail-freight
shipments. Increases in rail’s share of NAFTA trade could produce corresponding decreases in the number of trucks on the highways.
At the same time, connectivity to commuter rail, transit and
aviation will be needed for passenger traffic, with smooth transitional access to urban business districts and major airports.
Connection costs for passengers will need to be more beneficial in terms of time and cost-savings than would occur if the traveler were to choose to travel by automobile or airline. The Trans Texas Corridor will realize its greatest volume of rail passengers
only if the customers can connect easily to other modes of transit to
arrive at their ultimate destinations.
Perhaps the most promising of the new technologies in high-speed rail development is magnetic levitation, also known as maglev.
Here are some characteristics of this technology:
propulsion and guidance systems use magnetic forces.
Wheels do not
Speeds up to
safe and economical.
acceleration and continuous operation.
Low noise, no
pollution, and less energy consumption per passenger mile.
supported structure, maglev trains will be compatible with the current corridor design for vertical and horizontal curves.
Table 1: Magnetic levitation trains
||$82 - 92 M
||Up to 300
Maglev trains currently operate in both Japan and Germany, and plans are under way for some project implementation in the United States.
Lanes using intelligent transportation systems have the
potential to provide hands-off driving systems for cars, trucks, buses,
transit and rail freight shipments. Such systems can be built into
existing highway lanes, elevated or buried to remove them from
traditional traffic streams.
Texas’ large cities are not alone as they struggle to determine
how they can improve air quality while retaining mobility for people and freight. As an alternative to fossil fuels, electricity can
be used to power transit trains connecting the Trans Texas Corridor with the urban cores it bypasses. Example: the C-trains in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. These trains are powered solely by
wind-generated electricity from 12 dedicated turbines on a wind farm in
southern Alberta. Each three-car C-train represents the equivalent of 545 passenger vehicles. Their use reduces carbon dioxide
pollution in the area by an estimated 26,000 tons a year.
All of this technology is something to consider for future
improvements to the corridor. Due to significant costs, however, using this technology is not part of the initial corridor plan.
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