Conference to Address Texas Freight Railroad Gridlock: Passenger Rail Expansion in Jeopardy

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Unless Texas and other Southwest states embark on an ambitious project of upgrading rail infrastructure, you can look forward to freight train gridlock in the future and that means no desirable way to expand any higher speed passenger rail service at the regional and statewide level.

Unless Texas and other Southwest states embark on an ambitious project of upgrading rail infrastructure, you can look forward to freight train gridlock in the future and that means no desirable way to expand any higher speed passenger rail service at the regional and statewide level.

"Texas and most other surrounding states have railroads operating with a single track over much of their system," according to Peter LeCody, President of Dallas, Texas based Texas Rail Advocates. "It's like operating an interstate highway with a single traffic lane and making vehicles go both ways at the same time." According to LeCody, as the economy has grown and rail freight traffic increased, the system is now near or at capacity for handling commerce. "In some parts of the state we already have true rail gridlock", said LeCody.

The congestion challenge will be addressed later this month at the South Central High Performance Rail Corridor Conference. Among presenters will be Michael Behrens, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation; John Horsley: Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and key officials of Union Pacific and BNSF Railway, the largest railroads in the state. In addition, rail shippers and other users will discuss the future direction of rail transportation in Texas and the Southwest. The South Central High Performance Rail Corridor was designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2000 and covers segments in Oklahoma, Arkansas and with two legs in Texas that roughly parallel I-35 and I-20. The rail corridor conference will be held Thursday evening, January 25 and Friday, January 26, 2007 at the DFW International Airport Hyatt Regency Hotel.

"Here's an example of a major congestion problem," said LeCody. "Railroads that operate through Tower 55 near downtown Fort Worth must sometimes hold backed up trains for hours until they can proceed across the grade-level junction. This not only delays the movement of goods to their destination, but it virtually chokes the expansion of any future passenger rail services at the regional or corridor level to other cities until solutions can be found." The Tower 55 complex is said to be one of the most congested rail junctions west of the Mississippi River.

"The railroads can work in public-private partnerships that will benefit both the companies and the public", according to LeCody. "It has been done in other parts of the country and it can be done in Texas if elected officials are willing to make a commitment." Those partnerships could mean improved air quality by not idling trains at congested points, eliminating dangerous highway rail crossings, moving some truck traffic off congested roads and onto trains, giving businesses and industries a faster, more fuel efficient way to quickly move goods to market and make room for new technology to enable frequent, dependable passenger rail service."

Friday afternoon, the North Central Texas Council of Governments will spearhead a coalition of entities along the tri-state corridor to plan for an initial feasibility and engineering study.

More information on the conference can be found at http://www.SouthCentralRailCorridor.org or http://www.TexasRailAdvocates.org.

Presenters at the South Central High Performance Rail Corridor Conference include    

  •      John Horsley: Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
  •      Michael Behrens: Executive Director, TxDOT
  •      Jennifer Moczygemba: Multimodal Section, TxDOT
  •      Joe Adams: Chairman's Special Representative, Union Pacific Railroad
  •      Mark Rosner: General Director, Public Private Partnerships, BNSF Railway
  •      Jim Edmonds: Port of Houston Authority
  •      Gilbert Carmichael: Senior Chairman, Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver
  •      George Elking: Board Member, Southwest Rail Shippers Association
  •      Russ McGurk: Public Affairs Director, Go21
  •      Gene Skoropowski: Managing Director, California Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
  •      Joseph Schweiterman: Executive Director, Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Development, DePaul University
  •      Bill Blades: Dallas City Councilman
  •      Ross Milloy: Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council

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PETER LE CODY
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