While high speed rail and attempts to build new highways to improve mobility between San Antonio and Austin remain stuck in neutral, officials of the Lone Star Rail District say what is known as 'regional rail' is on track to pull out of the station, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Attorney Tullos Wells, who is vice chair of the Lone Star Rail District, says his organization has raised $100 million, and is negotiating for as much as $2 billion in private funding to build a standard speed passenger rail line between Texas A&M San Antonio in south Bexar County to north Austin.
Wells says unlike high speed rail, which could take 25 years to materialize because it would rely on brand new tracks, the regional rail system would use the existing Union Pacific tracks.
He points out that the UP is already in the process of moving its freight rail operations out of cities like San Marcos and New Braunfels, due to cargo, noise, and scheduling restrictions imposed by the communities. He says passenger rail would use those tracks, and the freight traffic would be moved to a new system of rail and regional logistics centers which are planned for east of the existing line.
Wells says the proposed rail line would have up to sixteen stops for passengers to get on board and get off.
"What's been interesting is the number of communities that are competing to have a station placed in their locale," he said.
Wells says the plan right now is to be able to travel from downtown San Antonio to downtown Austin in 75 minutes, guaranteed.
He says as I-35 gets more and more congested, the 'guaranteed' part is what will begin to matter to commuters.
"People who drive up and down that corridor every week like I do, quickly learn that, maybe you will be able to drive it in an hour and ten minutes," he said. "But then, maybe it will take you three hours because there's an accident."
Environmental studies are getting underway and should be completed in 2014. Wells says the passenger rail has a much shorter timeline than either significant improvements to I-35 or any of the high speed rail proposals which are in the works. He says trains running along the tracks in five to seven years.
Planned are up to 32 trains a day, including midday and evening service, seven days a week in each direction for students, commuters, and other regional travelers.
There would also be local service, enabling, for example, individuals to get on the train on San Antonio's north side and get off at a station convenient to Texas State University in San Marcos.
So how much would a ticket on what would be called the LSTAR train cost?
"We can't give you a hard and fast price, but I can tell you it would cost a lot less than the cost of gasoline for going up and down the corridor."