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"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this train"? (Photo by Flickr user, kaffeeeinstein)

Can Texas Support a Privately Funded Bullet Train?

The Texas Tribune today has a piece about the proposed bullet train from Dallas to Houston, which we’ve mentioned before. The big question, of course, is whether the money for the privately funded project will materialize:

Richard Arena, a transportation and infrastructure consultant who sits on the board of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, said he believes Texas Central’s project could become the first truly high-speed rail system in the country, but he has concerns about the project’s financing. In particular, he’s not clear how the Dallas-Houston line will manage to earn enough revenue to pay off the interest on the billions of dollars’ worth of bonds that will likely have to be issued to fund the construction. Such financial challenges are why some public subsidies are the norm for public rail systems, he said.

“I still have skepticism of where the funding is going to come long-term,” Arena said.

Meeting financial goals will be far more critical for Texas Central than for Amtrak, for example, which can subsidize money-losing routes across the country with revenue from its most profitable Northeast Corridor lines and turn to Congress for an infusion of taxpayer dollars in case of emergency. There will be none of that wiggle room in Texas, where the state’s Republican leadership has shown very little interest in supporting rail projects.

Also check out their chart that details the various travel times required and carbon footprint left by various transportation options for the trip. If it’s the environment you care about, take a bus. (Or hitchhike, maybe.)