Mayor Sylvester Turner and Texas Central President Tim Keith signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), signaling Houston's commitment to the bullet train with Texas Central as its developer. The memo kicks off what Turner called "the starting point of definitive agreements" with Texas Central to build the high-speed train, which would be entirely privately funded and would be the first bullet train in the country. Final agreements must be voted on by City Council.
"This is a great day for Houston, for Dallas, but it's also a great day for the state of Texas," Turner said. "This train moving forward, to me, is a signature moment for the state of Texas. A signature moment that says in Texas, in Houston, we still dream big and we make big things happen. And many people will benefit."
Texas Central plans to hire 10,000 people per year to build the train, and Turner said construction will hopefully begin by the end of 2018 and be finished in 2023. Among the future agreements City Council will vote on include right-of-way issues along Hempstead Road, where the rail is slated to be located, any utility relocation plans, maintenance and operation plans, planning, design and construction projects. A specific location for the station has not been chosen, Keith said, but according to the memo it will generally be located "south of U.S. 290, west of Loop 610, and north of I-10."
The bullet train will take passengers from Houston to Dallas in 90 minutes, with one halfway stop in the Brazos Valley. It's slated to cost about $10 to $15 billion, and as we reported earlier this week, Texas Central has so far raised about $75 million. The company announced it has chosen two corporations to design and build the rail line, Fluor Enterprises and The Lane Construction Corporation.
"The bullet train will benefit all Texans by injecting billions of dollars of investment into the state economy, engaging Texas businesses throughout Houston and Dallas and all the counties in between our great cities as well as all over the state," Keith said. "The demand for and supply of labor and materials will impact many, many businesses across the state."
Not all Texans, however, see it that way. As we reported in our 2015 cover story, rural Texans have long resisted the bullet train, which will slice through ranches and farmland some Texans are unwilling to give up. Some legislators, in defense of rural constituents, even filed bills in attempt to block the bullet train project.
But none succeeded, and so developers appear to be moving full speed ahead — or as quickly as they can gather the billions in funding, at least.
"This train is gonna be labeled Houston to Dallas — that's gonna change our economy," said Drayton McLane Jr., a prominent Texas billionaire and member of Texas Central's board of directors. "Just think: We have the largest economy in the world in the United States. We have zero high-speed rails. If you go to China, Russia, Taiwan, throughout Europe, there's high-speed rails everywhere. We have none. It takes big ideas to get it started. I think it's very significant that it starts right here in Texas."
Turner said that in order to compete in a global economy, Houston needed to keep up with the types of innovation available across the world, particularly when it relates to transportation and mobility. "We cannot miss this opportunity," he said.