Is 2009 the "Perfect Storm" for Expanding Passenger and Freight Rail Services in Texas and the Southwest?

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A pro-active Congress, legislators taking up rail issues this month in Austin and a desire for higher speed passenger rail service could make 2009 a watershed year in Texas. Will Texas legislators give TxDOT the tools needed for improving freight and passenger rail in the Lone Star State? Texas Rail Advocates hosts the 5th Annual South Central Rail Corridor Conference on Friday, January 16 at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Dallas.

Why the first try at High Speed Rail in Texas failed and what we can learn from it

Is 2009 the "Perfect Storm" for expanding passenger and freight rail services in Texas and the Southwest? An historic railway act passed by Congress in October, rail legislation before Texas lawmakers in the weeks ahead, funding for the Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund and raised interest from the public could make 2009 the most important year for higher speed passenger rail and improved freight rail service in decades.

Government and industry leaders will discuss the future of railroads in the Lone Star State at the 5th Annual South Central Rail Corridor Conference at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Dallas on Thursday and Friday, January 15-16. Conference information and registration is available at http://www.southcentralrailcorridor.org

"Fast-Tracking Texas Trains" is the theme of the rail conference and attendees will hear what plans are ahead to for higher speed intercity passenger rail service and to improve the handling of freight for shippers. The conference is hosted by Texas Rail Advocates.

Over a decade ago, the first attempt at High Speed Passenger Rail Service in Texas ended in failure. Hal Cooper, President of Cooper Engineering was involved in the process and will discuss "Why the first try at High Speed Rail in Texas failed and what we can learn from it". Attendees will hear about plans to alleviate the most congested rail crossing in the Western U.S., Tower 55 at Fort Worth, where trains can back up for hours waiting for clearance to proceed. Michael Welsh, Chair of International Air-Rail in London, will describe how other cities worldwide have connected their air and rail services to benefit the traveling public.

A Thursday night, January 15 dinner will precede the rail conference with featured speaker Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. Friday's keynote lunch speaker will be David Laney, who chaired the Texas Transportation Commission and the board of Amtrak, the national passenger rail service. Conference presenters include Phil Russell, Assistant Executive Director for Innovative Project Development at TxDOT; Clint Schelbitzki, Director of Public Affairs - Union Pacific Railroad; D.J. Mitchell, BNSF Railway Assistant Vice President - Passenger Services and Linda Koop, Chair of the Regional Transportation Council - North Central Texas Council of Governments. State Representative Linda Harper-Brown will discuss legislation before lawmakers in Austin. The rail forum draws attendees from local, state and federal agencies, passenger and freight railroads, business and industry sectors and rail advocacy organizations.

Texas Rail Advocates is a Dallas, Texas based 501(c)3 non-profit who mission is to accelerate Texas's economic growth and enhance the quality of life enjoyed by its people by advancing the development of rail service to its full potential as a carrier of freight and passengers.

Media contact: Peter LeCody, Executive Administrator (214) 803-7285
General information: Paul Mangelsdorf, Executive Director (214) 749-3549

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PETER LECODY
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