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Riding rails: Maybe Texas is right place for nation's first bullet train

By Longview News-Journal
Aug. 21, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Imagine this: This nation's first bullet train could be built right here in Texas.

A private company is exploring a Houston-to-Dallas-Fort Worth train by 2020, and a DFW-to-San Antonio route could come later. Traveling at 205 mph, the train would move passengers from Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes.

Perhaps most remarkable is that the Texas Central High-Speed Rail and Train Corp. plan calls for no public money to be used. In fact, if public money were offered, company officials said it probably would be rejected.

"If we start taking the federal money, it takes twice as long, costs twice as much," Robert Eckels, the company's president, told the Texas Tribune in a story that recently appeared in the News-Journal.

One reason Eckels can speak so boldly is that his firm has the backing of Central Japan Railway Co., which has some experience in the business, moving more than 100 million people a year on bullet trains in Japan.

It's an ambitious project.

In the U.S., rail travel is embraced mostly in the Northeast, where major cities are in relative proximity to one another and people need efficient means to move between them. That's also the only part of the country where Amtrak is profitable. So the notion that Texas, where vast distances separate our cities and most of us prefer to climb up into our pickups when we're heading somewhere, might set the pace on rail travel is strange.

But the Houston-Dallas-San Antonio triangle already is home to nearly 14 million people, and by 2050 that number is expected to approach 25 million. That's a lot of people to move by vehicles between the cities, and our highways already are crumbling and crowded. It doesn't seem air travel is going to become any more convenient, either.

Maybe Texas is the right place for a bold, private experiment in train travel. We look forward to seeing progress on this private train plan, and hope any success can help make rail travel more inviting across East Texas as well.



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