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Will the SA/Monterrey High-Speed Rail Line Really Happen?

Photo: Courtesy Photo, License: N/A

Courtesy Photo

Officials from the U.S. and Mexico came to the table to discuss a high-speed rail line last week.

This isn’t the only high-speed possibility in Texas, either. Much has been made of private company Texas Central Railway’s plans to develop a high-speed, electric train line between Houston and Dallas. Earlier this month, Foxx told attendees of the Texas Transportation Forum that two environmental impact studies for the proposed line would move forward this year.

Moreover, federal interest in developing high-speed rail networks remains high; President Barack Obama unveiled a plan to connect 80 percent of the country by high-speed rail in 2009, but was thwarted early on by wary Republican governors in several states who rejected federal funding on the grounds that it could put state taxpayers on the hook for billions more. Private-public partnerships, which would almost certainly be utilized in the SA-Monterrey line according to both Cuellar and Gonzalez, are seen as a way to mitigate this concern. Since the early days of high-speed rail planning, Texas has always been a prime candidate due to its spread-out cities and flat geography. However, Republican opposition to taxpayer-funded high-speed rail remains high as well, and given the long timetables for these projects, a change in administration could kill, stall or curtail these plans.

In Mexico, the excitement is more palpable. President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has moved quickly to make high-speed rail a reality, with planned lines in the Yucatán Peninsula and from Mexico City to Queretaro described as in a “very advanced” study phase according to Mexico’s Secretariat of Transport and Communications. Gonzalez also said that Mexico’s railways are slated to become deregulated in February, meaning the high-speed plan will be ripe for private investment.

Domene said the Mexico City-Queretaro line, which covers roughly the same distance as the proposed Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo line, is estimated to cost $4.5 billion and currently the government anticipates both lines will have virtually the same pricetag. The Mexican delegation said during the press conference that they anticipate construction and operation funding to be made available next year. “It’s really exciting to see what the Mexicans have,” said Cuellar during the press conference, “so we gotta make sure the U.S. catches up.”

While it’s too early in the process for Cuellar to start making promises about a timetable, budget or private partnership, the delegation was comfortable making the following statements: The line would be non-stop from Mexico to the border; would not operate on existing rail lines; and could get passengers between the two cities in about two hours. Cuellar said by phone that U.S. Customs preclearance and a strong collaboration from Mexico (“I feel that they’re going to do everything they can to make sure [the train] is secure,”) should help alleviate security concerns.

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