in Houston, Texas
High speed rail proponents still pushing for privately funded $10 billion Houston-Dallas line
Thursday, May 10, 2012, 02:16PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Houston to Dallas in 90 minutes or less for $10 billion and it won’t cost taxpayers a nickel.

Mouldering in the public transit graveyard, the idea of privately financed bullet train travel has arisen as inexplicably as Barnabas Collins and Dark Shadows.

Robert Eckels, founding chairman of the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation, is leading an effort in Texas to raise $10 billion for the Central Japan Railway Co. to build a high speed rail system as early as 2020 between the state’s major metropolitan areas, the Fort Worth Star Telegram is reporting today.

As Texas Watchdog has dutifully pointed out, Texas was last agog for bullet trains back in 1990 when a French and American consortium promising not to come begging for public funds failed to come close to raising startup capital, which was then counted in millions.

Eckels, now president of Lone Star High-Speed Rail and a longtime Harris County judge, insists the climate for investment has changed and a project like the one proposed can be completed and commercially viable without subsidy.

Should Eckels be right, a genuinely high speed rail line in Texas would be the first of its kind in the country. No other passenger train system, traveling at any speed, operates without considerable taxpayer assistance.

Eckels’ partners can at the very least take comfort in knowing that their lone competitor is the federal government which has used stimulus taxpayer funds to help fashion a high speed rail plan in California that tripled in cost to $100 billion before a single shovel was ready.

The governors of Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, not anxious to follow California’s success, pulled the brake cord and sent their stimulus rail grants back to Washington, D.C.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of steam train by Fickr user oncerifleman, used via the Creative Commons license.

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