HARLINGEN — Views about establishing rail passenger service that connects Texas and Oklahoma differ between those who think it’s a good idea and those who don’t.
The Texas Department of Transportation held an open house Thursday as a federally funded study gets under way to explore the feasibility.
“If it’s free, it would be a great amusement ride,” Charles Bickley of Harlingen said of the proposal, fearing, however, that it could result in added taxes.
“Who is going to pay for it?” Edinburg resident Fern McClaugherty asked. She was among a taxpayers’ group called Objective Watchers of the Legal System (O.W.L.S.) that attended the open house at Harlingen City Hall.
“How many people go to Oklahoma?” she asked. “We are already taxed to death.”
On the other hand, establishing rail passenger service would lead to “more mobility and exposure,” Donna resident Miguel Angel Avila said. Avila noted that such an initiative would lead to “more opportunities and jobs.”
TxDOT has held hearings or open houses throughout the state including San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Laredo as the state agency starts the federally funded rail study, known as the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study (TOPRS). The study began this winter and is expected to be completed by fall next year.
“There has been a lot of interest,” TxDOT official Jennifer Moczgemba said Thursday of the open houses as interested residents from the region attended the event.
Three segments within an 850-mile corridor from Oklahoma City to South Texas will be studied. The three segments include Oklahoma City to Dallas/Fort Worth, Dallas/Fort Worth to San Antonio, and San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley/Corpus Christi/Laredo.
Moczgemba said more open houses and public hearings would be held where TxDOT would present various alternatives. She noted that the suggestion also has been made that the proposed rail service be extended even farther south to Monterrey, Mexico.
The Federal Railroad Administration in 2000 designated the South Central corridor, including the area from San Antonio to Dallas/Fort Worth, as a future high-speed rail corridor, and subsequently, in 2010, TxDOT received a grant from FRA to study passenger rail in this corridor.
The agency noted that the study will consider a range of passenger rail options, which can range in speed from 79 miles per hour to more than 220 miles per hour, and that the different speed options will influence ridership, the number and location of stations, and costs.