Monday, April 27, 2009

Carona's SB 1570 promotes Texas T-Bone high-speed rail--bad idea for taxpayers

John Carona, chair of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, has a bill left pending in his committee designed to get state-wide high-speed rail up and running. SB 1570 gives actual authority to the South Central High-Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation to design and fund the Texas T-Bone plan. Right now, the organization is a not-for-profit corporation that advocates for the plan. SB 1570 will turn it into a governmental authority.

There are several problems with the T-Bone design. The T-Bone runs from DFW through Temple and Austin to San Antonio. A leg heads west from Houston through Bryan and meets the north-south leg at Temple. A map is at the THSRTC website

This is NOT the plan announced by Obama that is on the Federal Railroad Administration website.

The Federal government has designed one plan, and Texas would be designing a different one. Even if a state-wide high-speed rail project was a good idea, which it is not, a major problem with both plans is that neither has a direct connection between the state's two largest centers--DFW and Houston. In the T-Bone plan, travelers would have to go out of the way, through Temple. The Federal version shows Houston on a separate line coming through New Orleans--again, no direct route to Dallas.

An additional roadblock could eventually be the airlines. Back in the 90's, we rural residents organized "De-Rail" groups along the route of the Ben Barnes/French bullet train, and we had some impact. At the same time, Southwest Airlines was fighting the project. Eventually, financing for the project did not come through.

Right now, the T-Bone boosters point out that the airlines are not opposing the T-Bone project. One might say the airlines are not opposing it--YET. This could change.

Based on high-speed rail that is running elsewhere in the world, it's a bad idea for taxpayers. The systems are not self-supporting; they are supported by government funds. In Texas, like the Trans-Texas Corridor, the ultimate goal is not cost-effective transportation for the tax-paying public. The ultimate goal is dipping into the taxpayers' pockets once again for funds for construction companies, consultants, and officials. As always, follow the money.

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