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Texas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter State Capitol E-Report
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October 28, 2010:

  • TxDOT Releases Draft State Rail Plan for Public Comment

    The Texas Rail Division of TxDOT has released its latest draft of the state rail plan. Deadline for public comment on the plan is November 5. The Texas Transportation Commission is expected to consider its adoption of the final plan on November 18. The plan is available at http://www.txdot.gov/public_involvement/rail_plan/trp.htm. The current draft shows that Texas is getting serious about providing a solution to transportation problems beyond building more highways. It embodies a comprehensive and progressive approach to rail that takes into account the economic development issues and population growth forecast for Texas in the coming decades. The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club thinks the plan is a good effort that deserves public support.

    How solid is this plan? It is supported by the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF), the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), the San Antonio Regional Mobility Commission (SAMCO); the rail freight manager for Capital Metro, Texas Rail Advocates, the Austin San Antonio Corridor Council and the Lone Star Rail District.

    The plan covers the exciting new High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail service as well as improvements to existing freight and passenger infrastructure. President Obama’s support for High Speed Rail makes this the ideal time to take on the challenge of creating an entirely new transportation network. However we should not neglect the current rail system. Improvements to existing service will give Texas early success stories before the slower process of building High Speed Rail is shovel-ready. This would help retain public support and momentum for high speed rail after the initial push and publicity have passed.

    There are three ways to voice support for the draft plan:

    1. Send a letter addressed to:
    Mr. William Glavin
    Director, Rail Division
    118 E. Riverside Drive
    Austin TX 78704

    2. Comment online on the Texas Rail Plan website at http://www.txdot.gov/contact_us/form/?id=trp-pc-email

    3. Complete the online questionnaire at:
    http://www.txdot.gov/public_involvement/rail_plan/questionnaire.htm
    Here you can rate the relative importance of the various plan initiatives.
    Here are some talking points for comments on the plan:
    • The plan is progressive and based on sound feasibility studies.
    • The plan needs a timeline and complete table of capital improvement tasks.
    • The plan leads the Texas freight rail network to become more attractive to new and
    existing users.
    • Shipping by rail produces just one tenth of the carbon monoxide as shipping via truck.
    • Overburdened highways like the Interstate 35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin cannot support future levels of domestic and international freight trade. Freight rail use can prevent the expansion and construction of more highways.
    • Passenger rail is needed in Texas. The future of Texas depends on reinforcing the
    economic and social ties between the different areas of our large state.
    • High Speed Rail presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for the nation to invest in a
    new rail passenger system that can serve public transportation needs more cleanly
    than automobiles and less expensive than air travel.
    • High Speed Rail corridor acquisition and development should not happen at the
    expense of improving the existing system.
    • Improvements to existing service will give Texas early success stories before the
    slower process of building High Speed Rail is shovel-ready.
    • The majority of rail delays could be remedied by systemwide improvements to existing infrastructure. Prioritizing improvements to existing infrastructure and addressing safety issues that reduce system efficiency would benefit both passenger and freight service.
    • Relocating freight lines outside urban areas and using the existing urban lines for passenger rail will reduce bottlenecks.

  • The State Capitol E-Report is a monthly electronic update from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club reporting on Texas environmental policy issues of statewide interest. Contact us at: lonestar.chapter@sierraclub.org ...Header photo of Devils River State Natural Area copyright Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
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