Solving Cities

A $10 billion bullet train for Texas?

A $10 billion bullet train for Texas?

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Can private investors raise $10 billion to connect Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth?

Private investors hope to build a bullet train like this in Texas. (Hairyeggg/Flickr)

Navigating Interstate 45 from Dallas to Houston takes just over four hours. If Robert Eckels, president of Texas Central High-Speed Railway, has anything to do with it, that journey will soon take less than two.

Eckels, a former judge in Harris County, Texas, hopes to build the nation's first privately-funded bullet train in the Lone Star State. "This is designed to be a profitable high-speed rail system that will serve the people of these two great cities and in between and, ultimately, the whole state of Texas," Eckels said at a high-speed rail forum Aug. 21.

Texas is no stranger to the idea of high speed rail. In 2010, Texas led a failed attempt to win some of the $8 billion President Barack H. Obama set aside for high-speed rail. This time, Eckels told The Texas Tribune Aug. 21, is different:

“I predict Texas will be the first state that has high-speed rail because it’s private-sector driven,” Fickes said.

Private-sector driven may be an understatement. As was true for the 2010 effort, a major player in the new proposal is the Central Japan Railway Company -- the organization that runs Japan's bullet train. In this sense, the project offers a test case for global capital in pursuit of social good.

The project's $10 billion pricetag also places it among the most expensive private works programs in the world. The Burj Khalifa, in comparison, cost just $1.5 billion to build.

In spite of these obstacles, people like Gary Fickes, chairman of the Texas High-Speed Rail and Train Corporation, say that they're optimistic. “They’re spending real money on high-speed rail to try and get things done,” Fickes told The Texas Tribune, “I think they’re the real deal.”

[The Texas Tribune]

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Claire Lambrecht

Contributing Writer

Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure