The Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study (TOPRS) commenced in winter 2013 and is expected to be completed by fall 2014. It will document the costs, benefits, and impacts of rail service alternatives compared to a no-build alternative in a service-level environmental impact statement (EIS).
Environmental Impact Statement
The EIS, a federally required document that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), will provide a high-level review of rail needs and potential service options in the corridor (called a service-level EIS). The study could conclude with a decision to advance individual projects for more detailed study or a decision against making further investments in passenger rail in the corridor. Before any identified project could be constructed, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) would need to complete additional environmental review and identify funding.
High-speed passenger rail has been under consideration in Texas since the late 1980s. In the 1990s, a private consortium was awarded a franchise to design, build, and operate high-speed rail in the state. Although demand appeared to support the development of high-speed rail, lack of funding and other obstacles prevented the project from moving forward. Since then, other proposals for high-speed passenger rail in Texas have been submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), with each proposal showing revenues that exceed operating expenses but requiring some amount of funding to build.
In 2000, FRA designated the South Central corridor, including the area from San Antonio to Dallas/Fort Worth, as a future high-speed rail corridor. In 2010, TxDOT received a grant from FRA to study passenger rail in this corridor.
Different Types of Passenger Rail
The Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study will consider a range of passenger rail options for the 850‑mile corridor. Today’s passenger rail service can range in speed from 79 miles per hour to more than 220 miles per hour. The different speed options will influence ridership, the number and location of stations, and costs.
TxDOT and FRA will make decisions about TOPRS after reviewing input from the public and other public agencies.