March 16, 2018 Updated: March 19, 2018 10:29am
As technology evolves, so does transportation. From the days of the horse and buggy and later steam engines, all the way to the hybrid cars of today, our modes of transportation have become faster, more efficient, and safer. Houstonians have seen our highways grow in numbers and expand in width, yet we still face traffic and long commutes. We’ve poured concrete and money into our highways and ignored other means of transportation, like our railway system. Americans continue to travel on trains that use the same technology that our grandparents did. It’s time to change that.
It’s time for high-speed rail in Texas. The “bullet train” — the proposed train between Dallas and Houston — will provide a fast, safe and reliable means of transportation between the state’s two largest metro areas. The train has garnered its share of supporters and critics along its route, but its impact on Houston will be significant.
For Houston, this high-speed rail will relieve congestion along Interstate 45.
According to the Texas Transportation Institute, I-45 will see an increase in vehicular traffic of more than 200 percent between Dallas and Houston by 2035. Current state and local transportation plans do not adequately address these growing population concerns. But the Bullet train could take 14,630 cars off of I-45 every day, according to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement published by the Federal Railroad Administration. This would save an estimated 81.5 million gallons of gasoline per year. This is an especially important point when you consider that Harris and Waller Counties are already considered to be in air-quality, non-attainment status.
In our area, the train would have a station in the current Northwest Mall location, a huge boon for our community. For travelers heading north to the Brazos Valley or to North Texas, this is an ideal location near the junction of two busy highways, U.S. 290 and Loop 610. The location sits in an underserved and underdeveloped part of the city. A project of this magnitude would be an unrivaled economic driver for this area for generations —bringing new jobs, new developments, increased property values and opportunities for residents nearby and across the region.
In terms of safety, we have the benefit of looking to Japan, where more than 10 billion people over more than 53 years have traveled via the same high-speed rail technology with zero fatalities. This isn’t new technology, and we’re fortunate to have a long-term example of it.
In contrast, highway fatalities along the I-45 corridor are much higher. The ability of this project to provide not only a more efficient alternative to I-45 but as a much safer one makes its development a priority for our region and our state.
Economically, the “Bullet Train” will bring a brand new industry to Texas. This project and the industry it will produce will be a job creator today, tomorrow and for decades to come. Current projections show the project could create 10,000 jobs during each year of construction and with that about 1,500 permanent jobs when operations begin —many in and around Houston.
This is exactly the kind of project Texas needs, and that’s why the FRA must expedite its review and approval process so we can keep Texas moving into the future. Everything is bigger (and better) in Texas, so why can’t we have the best train in the country? Let’s allow our two premier cities to be a showcase to the rest of the country.
And that’s just the way it is.
Poe, a Republican, represents Houston in the U.S. House of Representatives.