The $5.6 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration gets the ball rolling on a feasibility study. The grant is only about half the amount the state requested. TxDOT Spokeswoman Karen Amacker says they'll seek additional funding to be able to look at all 850 miles of the proposed corridor.
"They're the sort of studies that help us identify what kind of passenger rail service is appropriate for a particular region. Whether that is improving existing Amtrak service, using existing railways, building a new railway to offer true high-speed service. And it also makes sure that there's a good solid business case for adding this service and this mode of transportation to this corridor."
Traditional Amtrak carries passengers at a rate of between 40 and 70 mph. Compare that to high-speed rail which runs between 100 and 200 mph.
"It's a serious safety concern when you start talking about trains moving that fast. It's also very expensive. And so getting these preliminary studies under our belt to determine whether or not it's even feasible, whether or not ridership could support something like that — those are all very important steps for us to take."
Amacker says Texas is ideally suited for high-speed rail because of the state's mostly flat terrain and long distances between major cities.