Transportation

Houston-to-Dallas high-speed rail project awarded $500,000 federal grant

The long-envisioned initiative was one of seven high-speed rail projects across the country selected to receive grant funding from the Federal Railroad Administration, which awarded a total of $8.2 billion to 79 rail projects that are in varying stages of development.

Shinkansen Train
Shutterstock
The Shinkansen bullet train travels at speeds of up to 200 mph.

Amtrak has been awarded a $500,000 federal grant to further study and develop a proposed high-speed railway between Houston and Dallas, a long-envisioned plan that until earlier this year had appeared to have fizzled out.

Amtrak, the national passenger railroad company of the United States, announced in August it was exploring a partnership with Texas Central, the Dallas-based company that a decade ago hatched the idea of building a 240-mile railway that could transport passengers between the state's two largest cities in a matter of about 90 minutes.

The initiative is one of seven high-speed rail projects across the country that was awarded grant funding on Friday by the Federal Railroad Administration, as part of its new Corridor Identification and Development Program using resources allocated through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress in 2021. A total of 68 other rail projects in 44 states were awarded the same grant, while 10 ready-to-construct railway projects were selected for grants through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program.

A total of $8.2 billion was awarded for the rail initiatives, which include both high-speed and traditional rail service. The Houston-to-Dallas bullet train project is one of a few that aim to expand rail service in the Houston region.

"We are taking full advantage of the resources we have to advance world-class passenger rail services nationwide," Amit Bose, the administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration, said in a news release from the U.S. Department of Transportation. "Today's announcement is another step forward as we advance transformative projects that will carry Americans for decades to come and provide them with convenient, climate-friendly alternatives to congested roads and airports."

The grant funding for the high-speed rail project between Houston and Dallas, which aims to use Shinkansen technology from Japan and utilize the former Northwest Mall site as the Houston terminal, does not mean it will come to fruition. The money will not be used for construction, but rather for further developing the project.

The effort appeared to have stalled last year, because land acquisitions along the proposed railway reportedly slowed and previous Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar resigned. The plan has gotten significant pushback from rural landowners along the proposed route, but a Texas Supreme Court ruling last June gave Texas Central the legal authority to acquire land through eminent domain, offering a glimmer of hope to supporters.

Mayors Sylvester Turner of Houston and Eric Johnson of Dallas have expressed support for the idea. And the Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development organization for the region, praised the potential collaboration between Amtrak and Texas Central when it was announced in August.

If the bullet train materializes, it is expected to create thousands of jobs while also benefiting the environment. The project would lead to the removal of 12,500 cars per day from Interstate 45 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 100,000 tons per year, according to Amtrak and Texas Central.