Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown (Lone Star Rail District)

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown (Lone Star Rail District)

Postby Jeff Smith » Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:02 pm

An editorial in favor: http://www.statesman.com/opinion/add-pa ... 75477.html

Commuter rail between San Antonio and Georgetown took a significant step forward recently with an agreement that paves the way for Union Pacific, a freight operator, to cede its existing urban railroad to passenger rail.

The Lone Star Rail District that is negotiating those terms with Union Pacific also narrowed to three the possible paths for an alternate freight line east of Austin.

With those steps, regional passenger rail — thought to be on life support — is looking more like reality.

We support the so-called LSTAR rail line because Central Texas needs more transit options as more people flock to the region. Congestion on Interstate 35 and other roads is well-documented and expected to worsen with growth.


Cross-posted in UP.
Next stop, Willoughby
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby fauxcelt » Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:10 am

After driving through there last month on I-35 and noticing how busy the highways were, I agree with this editorial because they can only build so many highways or add so many lanes to the existing roads. We were there to visit with family and relatives who live in both Austin and San Antonio. We go there once a year to visit and the traffic on I-35 seems to be worse and more congested than it was in previous years and our relatives say it is not our imagination. The traffic is heavier on I-35. This is why I agree with this editorial.

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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:25 am

This is not your typical regional rail/commuter rail proposal where the local transit agency makes a deal with the freight railroad company to share the tracks they own, and use available slots for passenger trains. It's far more complicate and far more expensive than that. Complicating the matter is the fact there are no available slots. The UP uses this mostly single track mainline corridor for NAFTA trade shipments, which is increasing every year, besides serving local freight shipments in the fastest growing area of the country. Even if this line was double tracked, the UP could fill it with freight in a relatively short period of time, much like the UP will be doing to the old newly double tracked SP mainline west of El Paso. Even almighty Amtrak can't get daily Sunset Limited service on it. There's no way the UP is going to allow multiple passenger trains a day on this line.
So, Lone Star train and TXDOT are proposing building a brand new rail line for the UP 10 to 15 miles east of the present corridor for UP to run their NAFTA trains on, over 75 miles from Georgetown to Seguin, so frequent passenger trains can use the existing line. Projected costs for this new freight only bypass line for the UP is over $2 Billion, and that's before adding the half a billion to billion dollars to build passenger train facilities on the existing line, or pay the UP the rights to operate on it. That new freight bypass line expense isn't an expense other commuter rail agencies have experienced in the past in America.
Worse yet, that new freight bypass line would occupy the preferred right-of-way a potential Dallas, Waco, Temple, Austin, San Antonio TXHSR line would want to use. Which should the State support, a potential Lone Star commuter rail with 79 mph max speeds, or a potential TXHSR agency with 200+ mph max speeds? What would you rather have with your $2 to $3 Billion investment?
Thankfully, Lone Star doesn't have the power to tax or sell bonds yet. TXDOT is busy madly studying future intrastate rail corridors today. The future of all intrastate intercity passenger rail in Texas will be effected by what TXDOT, not Lone Star, decides to finance and build....
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Fri Apr 06, 2012 2:40 pm

electricron wrote:This is not your typical regional rail/commuter rail proposal where the local transit agency makes a deal with the freight railroad company to share the tracks they own, and use available slots for passenger trains. It's far more complicate and far more expensive than that. Complicating the matter is the fact there are no available slots. The UP uses this mostly single track mainline corridor for NAFTA trade shipments, which is increasing every year, besides serving local freight shipments in the fastest growing area of the country. Even if this line was double tracked, the UP could fill it with freight in a relatively short period of time, much like the UP will be doing to the old newly double tracked SP mainline west of El Paso. Even almighty Amtrak can't get daily Sunset Limited service on it. There's no way the UP is going to allow multiple passenger trains a day on this line.
So, Lone Star train and TXDOT are proposing building a brand new rail line for the UP 10 to 15 miles east of the present corridor for UP to run their NAFTA trains on, over 75 miles from Georgetown to Seguin, so frequent passenger trains can use the existing line. Projected costs for this new freight only bypass line for the UP is over $2 Billion, and that's before adding the half a billion to billion dollars to build passenger train facilities on the existing line, or pay the UP the rights to operate on it. That new freight bypass line expense isn't an expense other commuter rail agencies have experienced in the past in America.


Actually, you're wrong about the cost. The total cost is somewhere in the neighborhood of$1.3 billion to $1.8 billion, not $2 billion. That's the total cost of the bypass line, but what you might not have realized is that there will be a cost-sharing arrangement between the LSTAR and Union Pacific. Once the bypass line is built and operational, ownership of the current UP line (where LSTAR will operate) will be turned over to Lone Star Rail District, which will own, maintain, dispatch, and operate the line.

electricron wrote:Worse yet, that new freight bypass line would occupy the preferred right-of-way a potential Dallas, Waco, Temple, Austin, San Antonio TXHSR line would want to use. Which should the State support, a potential Lone Star commuter rail with 79 mph max speeds, or a potential TXHSR agency with 200+ mph max speeds? What would you rather have with your $2 to $3 Billion investment?


This is wrong on so many levels it makes my head hurt. First off, there is no "preferred right-of-way" for any HSR line in the Austin-San Antonio corridor. The state hasn't even begun its initial ridership and Level 1 NEPA studies, so I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to when you claim there's a "preferred right-of-way". You mean the 30+ mile wide corridor that might host both the freight bypass and an HSR line? Horrors! How will they possibly fit TWO 100-foot wide rights of way in that 30-mile wide swath of land?

Deployment speed for LSTAR, with PTC necessarily in place, is planned at 90 mph. By the way, LSTAR was created by the Texas state legislature, so it too is a Texas state rail agency. In fact, there is currently no state HSR agency. All of the planning work is being carried out by the TxDOT Rail Division.

The $2 billion to $3 billion investment that you're apparently claiming is in competition is a red herring. HSR will *not* cost $2 billion to $3 billion; if California is any indication, you can expect those costs to be closer to $100 billion. HSR is decades away in Texas; it needs to be studied and planned for today (and TxDOT is doing that), but if you believe that there will actually be HSR trains operating in Texas in less than 20 years, you're dreaming. As I mentioned, the state is not even in the beginning phases of planning. It's in somewhat the "pre-beginning" phase. It's planning to plan. LSTAR, on the other hand, is well along in the planning process, and is intended to address the horrendous and steadily worsening capacity deficit on the highways of central and south Texas. Austin is now the nation's third most congested city, based on the 2011 urban mobility report published by the TTI.

In any case, it's not an either/or, and your posing of this issue as a "one or the other" choice demonstrates a basic lack of understanding of how project funding and financing works. The projects, while complementary (LSTAR is the "last mile" connector for any HSR system that will be built, because the HSR system will *not* come to downtown Austin), are not in competition. If the funding for LSTAR is not found in the next decade, that doesn't ipso facto mean that it will be diverted to HSR. Casting it as "if we build this, we can't build that" is silly and misleading.

electricron wrote:Thankfully, Lone Star doesn't have the power to tax or sell bonds yet. TXDOT is busy madly studying future intrastate rail corridors today. The future of all intrastate intercity passenger rail in Texas will be effected by what TXDOT, not Lone Star, decides to finance and build....


Again, my head hurts from the inaccuracies and bold assertions based on vapor. Lone Star Rail most certainly does have the power to sell bonds, and that power will most likely be used to help finance capital construction $. TxDOT is in no way "madly studying" anything; they are proceeding in a methodical, measured way to ensure that they dot all Is and cross all Ts in the federal process so that Texas will be ready one day when another round of HSIPR money comes available (which, by the way, may be a *very* long time).

And this whopper of hyperbole: "The future of all intrastate intercity passenger rail in Texas will be effected...." etc., etc. Wow; time to step back and take a few deep breaths, my friend.

This is not either-or. It's both. Both are needed (LSTAR more urgently than HSR right now), and each complements the other.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:57 pm

jb9152 wrote:Actually, you're wrong about the cost. The total cost is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion, not $2 billion. That's the total cost of the bypass line, but what you might not have realized is that there will be a cost-sharing arrangement between the LSTAR and Union Pacific. Once the bypass line is built and operational, ownership of the current UP line (where LSTAR will operate) will be turned over to Lone Star Rail District, which will own, maintain, dispatch, and operate the line. Deployment speed for LSTAR, with PTC necessarily in place, is planned at 90 mph. The $2 billion to $3 billion investment that you're apparently claiming is in competition is a red herring. HSR will *not* cost $2 billion to $3 billion; if California is any indication, you can expect those costs to be closer to $100 billion.

Again, my head hurts from the inaccuracies and bold assertions based on vapor. Lone Star Rail most certainly does have the power to sell bonds, and that power will most likely be used to help finance capital construction $. TxDOT is in no way "madly studying" anything; they are proceeding in a methodical, measured way to ensure that they dot all Is and cross all Ts in the federal process so that Texas will be ready one day when another round of HSIPR money comes available (which, by the way, may be a *very* long time).

And this whopper of hyperbole: "The future of all intrastate intercity passenger rail in Texas will be effected...." etc., etc. Wow; time to step back and take a few deep breaths, my friend.
This is not either-or. It's both. Both are needed (LSTAR more urgently than HSR right now), and each complements the other.


Just many points I disagree with you on. Here's a short list....
While building the parallel bypass route may cost $1.8 Billion, I "also" included the costs to upgrade the existing UP line to 90 mph, for stations and park & ride lots, train shops, trains, locomotives, and new tracks for sidings that will be required to operate Lone Star rail. I thought I was being conservative with just $200 to $1,200 million additional expense. It will cost much more than "nothing" to upgrade the existing UP tracks for commuter rail operations.

The ability to sell bonds to raise capital doesn't mean a thing to investors unless there is a means to pay the interests, and that means a tax to support those bonds. Lone Star has no taxing authority today, therefore no sane investor will ever buy any bonds issued by Lone Star. The only reason DART, FWTA, METRO, and CAPMETRO can sell bonds to investors today is that they have the ability to tax.

There's just two possible rail corridors through Austin in the north to south direction. The existing UP line, with possible 90 mph commuter rail max speeds, and the SH 130 median that the UP bypass is proposed to be built in. Any future TXHSR will need to use one or the other. It'll be extremely slow at 90 mph for over 100 miles between Austin and San Antonio. Of course, it doesn't have to go to Austin at all, which it won't if both rail corridors are clogged with slow trains.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Apr 07, 2012 1:10 am

Is there an M-K-T alignment Georgetown - Austin - San Marcos - San Antonio separate from the MP alignment? If so, is it in use?

Also, I know it doesn't go very far in the right direction, but is the SP route from near Round Rock into Austin grade-separated?
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:01 am

mtuandrew wrote:Is there an M-K-T alignment Georgetown - Austin - San Marcos - San Antonio separate from the MP alignment? If so, is it in use?

Also, I know it doesn't go very far in the right direction, but is the SP route from near Round Rock into Austin grade-separated?


The old MKT tracks into Austin have been removed for some time, the remnants of the MKT corridor completely disappears in Pluggerville, and in downtown Austin, where it once ran in city streets, and crossed the Lake on the same railroad bridge the UP (old MoPac) uses. It's not being recommended for the new freight bypass mainly because it doesn't bypass south Austin. Most of Austin's new skyscrapers are being built in the old MKT warehouse district. Skyscrapers, city streets, and freight trains don't mix. It certainly wouldn't qualify for HSR trains either with trains running in downtown city streets.

The old MKT mainline bypassing Austin completely from Taylor to Elgin to Smithfield to San Marcus isn't being recommend for the freight bypass either. It adds too much milage to UP freight trains. Although this alternate routing could be made somewhat shorter by laying new tracks in a new corridor between San Marcus and Bastrop, eliminating having to go further east all the way to Smithfield.

The old SP line is being used by CapMetroRail, with max speeds of 60 mph, north of downtown Austin. CapMetro owns the corridor east all the way to Elgin. It's being proposed for a possible Green line commuter rail expansion. It isn't grade separated.

None of the rail lines through Austin are entirely grade separated. The easiest corridor to lay grade separated HSR tracks in Austin under State ownership is the median of SH-130. Seems foolish to relocate UP freight trains on it to me.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:15 pm

electricron wrote:While building the parallel bypass route may cost $1.8 Billion, I "also" included the costs to upgrade the existing UP line to 90 mph, for stations and park & ride lots, train shops, trains, locomotives, and new tracks for sidings that will be required to operate Lone Star rail. I thought I was being conservative with just $200 to $1,200 million additional expense. It will cost much more than "nothing" to upgrade the existing UP tracks for commuter rail operations.


No. You said (and I quote): "Projected costs for this new freight only bypass line for the UP is over $2 Billion". You did not include the cost of the passenger rail in that statement, which renders it incorrect. There's no misunderstanding here. You overstated the costs for the "new freight only bypass" (your words) by approximately half a billion dollars, give or take.

Also - how could you have included the "costs to upgrade the existing UP line to 90 mph" as you say, when you clearly said later on in your same post that the speed for LSTAR will be 79 mph?

You clearly have a very limited understanding of the project, the region, and the issues.

electricron wrote:The ability to sell bonds to raise capital doesn't mean a thing to investors unless there is a means to pay the interests, and that means a tax to support those bonds. Lone Star has no taxing authority today, therefore no sane investor will ever buy any bonds issued by Lone Star. The only reason DART, FWTA, METRO, and CAPMETRO can sell bonds to investors today is that they have the ability to tax.


Lone Star has the power to create tax increment financing districts, called "TIZs" (for transportation infrastructure zone). These legal constructs capture the additional revenue that accrues from development around rail stations (including normal development that would occur with or without a rail station or potential rail station). The District has been very careful in selecting proposed station sites to maximize TIF revenues. There are also Public Improvement Districts (PIDs), which have been used (notably in Portland, OR) to allow property owners who will benefit from the presence of the rail line to self-assess a virtual tax which goes to the District to support operations or capital construction. Finally, TxDOT can guarantee bonds on behalf of LSTAR (as another state agency). Again, you have a very limited understanding of the project specifically and project financing in general.

electricron wrote:There's just two possible rail corridors through Austin in the north to south direction. The existing UP line, with possible 90 mph commuter rail max speeds, and the SH 130 median that the UP bypass is proposed to be built in.


Utterly incorrect. SH130 was not designed to rail engineering tolerances due to the expense of straightening curves and designing interchanges to account for rail. The LSTAR alternatives analysis for the freight bypass line has identified over 200+ possible routes between Seguin and Taylor, which were narrowed down to three draft alignments in cooperation with Union Pacific. NONE of the alignments contemplated SH130, because it will not, when built, support the higher engineering requirements of rail.

Also, by the way - the existing UP line could support maximum authorized speeds of up to 110 mph. The 90 mph speed was chosen as an initial deployment speed because it is the maximum allowed for FRA Class 5 track. LSTAR does have plans to ramp up to 110 mph if and when demand justifies the additional cost of maintaining the track to Class 6 standards.

The TxDOT HSR level 1 NEPA study corridor does not contemplate using either the existing UP rail line, or SH130. It is an approximately 30 mile wide corridor east of the SH130 alignment. Again, you show a basic lack of knowledge about either the LSTAR or the TxDOT HSR projects.

electricron wrote:Any future TXHSR will need to use one or the other. It'll be extremely slow at 90 mph for over 100 miles between Austin and San Antonio. Of course, it doesn't have to go to Austin at all, which it won't if both rail corridors are clogged with slow trains.


Giving me another headache with all of the misinformation here. The TxHSR final alignment has yet to be determined, and it's going to be some time before it is, so your assertion is ridiculous. The Department is in the beginning phases of level 1 NEPA (corridor level) planning, which does NOT identify a possible alignment - just wide "corridors" between major destinations.

By the way, 90 mph is not "extremely slow" for travel between Austin and San Antonio (which are closer to about 80 miles apart, not 100). That speed will allow LSTAR express train travel times downtown to downtown to be 1:15, which beats the private auto travel time.
Last edited by jb9152 on Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:20 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:17 pm

electricron wrote:The easiest corridor to lay grade separated HSR tracks in Austin under State ownership is the median of SH-130. Seems foolish to relocate UP freight trains on it to me.


Well, you don't have to worry about that, because your assertion about SH130 being the "easiest corridor" in which to lay track is completely wrong. TxDOT decided several years back that the expense of designing and building SH130 to rail engineering standards would be too costly.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:48 pm

Again with the half truths.
Much of SH 130 was designed and built so that double tracks can be accommodated from Georgetown through Austin. There's even consideration for tracks to leave the median where the UP intersects north of Austin. There's even consideration for tracks to leave or enter the median at SH 45 south of Austin. The expansion south of SH 45 south can be reconfigured for tracks in the median....but.....

Initial study, freight bypass using existing corridors costs too much, between
http://www.austinchamber.com/public-policy/files/080708_TXDOTASARailPres.pdf
* Grade Separations ($1.2 Billion) Bridges to separate the railroad from streets
* Grade Crossing Closures ($3.5 Million) Closing and rerouting the street at the intersection with the railroad
* Improvements to Existing Railroad Infrastructure ($183 Million) Improving capacity and connectivity on existing rail lines
* New Railroad Corridors ($1.4 - $2.4 Billion)
* Total estimated cost of improvements: Approx. $3.8 Billion

SH 130 Study
http://lonestarrail.com/images/uploads/SH_130_Corridor.Fatal_Flaw_Analysis_Report_.090209_.pdf
The SH 130 corridor has been broken into six separate design segments and two separate construction projects. Originally conceived as a multimodal corridor, the northern 49 miles (Segments 1-4) were designed to accommodate a double track rail line running within the center median. In order to verify that such a rail line could be accommodated, Segment 1-4 designers prepared Rail Compatibility Reports to demonstrate that freight rail could actually be constructed within the corridor. While the primary focus of the design was on freight rail, that same space might also facilitate construction of commuter rail facilities. Similar rail compatibility requirements are not, however, a current requirement for the Segment 5-6 construction project; in fact, that Developer is not even required to consider the potential for future rail construction.
With regard to constructing a rail line within the SH 130 corridor, three potential alignment options were considered. The intent of this study was to review each of those options and to assess whether there were any impediments within the various construction segments, as they are currently constructed (1-4), or as they are currently designed (5-6) (i.e. failing to meet design standards, insufficient physical space to locate construction elements, etc.), that could be considered “fatal flaws” for that given option, and that would thus prevent the implementation of that option.
The only viable option was Option 1, which would place the commuter rail alignment within the SH 130 median. The benefits to utilizing the center median include:
• All ROW that would be required for track construction already has, or will be, obtained as part of one of the two SH 130 projects.
• With the SH 130 project already having been through the environmental review process, no complications related to permitting are anticipated for this alignment.
• The commuter rail equipment in use today is able to negotiate the same horizontal curves and profile grades that high speed highway facilities are designed to. As such, it is possible to construct a commuter rail line in the center median which can mimic the geometry of the adjoining mainlanes.
HOWEVER, while Segments 1-4 were required by TxDOT to be rail compatible, and they could accept a commuter rail in the median, TxDOT eliminated those design requirements for Segments 5 & 6. As a result, those last two segments contain features that make use of the overall SH 130 corridor for rail virtually impossible:
• The SH 45 SE interchange contains bridge piers that directly obstruct any median- running rail alignment.
• Serious vertical and horizontal clearance restrictions exist at all overpass and interchange locations.
Design of Segments 5 and 6 are currently at the 30%-60% level and unless those critical issues are addressed immediately, use of the SH 130 corridor for rail is FATALLY FLAWED.

Segments 1-4 criteria required clearances of 23’-0” over railroads and 26’-6” over electrified light rail. Criteria for Segments 5 & 6 do require a clearance of 23’-0” over railroads, but since the requirement for “rail compatibility” in Segments 5 & 6 was eliminated, those clearances were only applied at locations where new roadways passed over existing railroads. There was no consideration given to construction of a new railroad underneath structures that are being built over highway lanes constructed as part of those Segments.
It is important to note that original design studies for the ASA commuter rail project anticipated the use of bi-level coaches having approximate heights of 18 feet. While clearance requirements imposed on Segments 1-4 (23’-0”) would accommodate such cars, the 16’-6” clearances used under bridges in Segments 5 & 6 would not do so.

I would like to point out that single level HSR cars could be just 13.1 feet tall. Talgo Series 8 car specifications http://www.talgoamerica.com/series8-passengerCars.aspx
Talgo Series 8 Passenger Coaches
Pneumatic Brake Equipment = Three disc brakes per axle (two on the wheels)
Electric Brake Equipment = Regenerative (4200 kW) and rheostatic (3200 kW)
Maximum Width = 9.65 feet (2.942 m)
Height = 13.1 feet (4 m)
Maximum Commercial Speed = 217 mph (350 km/h)
Maximum Lateral Acceleration in Curve = 1.2 m/s2
Maximum Cant Deficiency = 7.2 inches
Track Gauge = 56.496 inches (1435 mm)
Maximum Axle Weight = 17 Tons
Type of Operation = Single Trainset or Multiple Mode
Sense of Travel = Push – Pull (Bi-directional)
Car Body Length = 43.1 feet (13.14 m)
Car Body Width = 9.65 feet (2.942 m) wide

So, even Sections 5 & 6 of SH 130 could accommodate single level trains if just one of the fatal flaws mentioned above were fixed. But, here's a juicy fact, not double stacked containers freight trains.

Tall freight trains using SH130 as the bypass needed for Lone Star commuter trains to run on existing UP tracks have to enter and exit SH130 within Sections 1 thru 4. A high speed train could just as easy if the one fatal fall design isn't corrected. So, the SH 130 median is easily available for TXHSR and wouldn't even require an Environmental Assessment, because the Environmental Impact Study has already been completed with double track rail line running in its median.
To refresh real facts derived from the links I provided:
*Corridor already owned by TXDOT
*Rail already included within the EISA
*EISA completed with Federal approval
*Overpasses already built over 23 feet tall
*All that is missing is finding the money for laying tracks, building stations, and buying trains.....

That's why it is the easiest and simplest HSR corridor through Austin. Every other potential corridor requires starting with Step 1.....

As for costs, the second link in this reply lists them:
SECTION 9.0 - CONSTRUCTION COST ESTIMATES
Costs to build a commuter rail line along the SH 130 corridor from near Georgetown, south to Seguin, and from there continuing along existing rail lines to Kelly USA southwest of San Antonio, were developed at an “order of magnitude” level. Costs shown do not address any modifications that would need to be made to the SH 130 / SH 45 S interchange, or to any elements of Segments 5 & 6 as they are currently designed, in order to ensure they would support construction of a commuter rail system. Design documents that are currently available do not contain sufficient data to make such an analysis at this time.
Seven elements of cost were tabulated:
Track: (including rail, ties, ballast, subgrade, and drainage) = $1,900 million
Structures: (along the US 130 corridor and the UP Flatonia Subdivision) = $450 million
Stations: (six along US 130, one at Kelly USA) = $85 million
Vehicles: (rolling stock) = $140 million
Maintenance Facility: = $75 million
Maintenance Equipment: = $20 million
Right – of – Way: (stations, layover yard, maintenance facility) = $25 million
Total Project Cost = $ 2,695 million
Note: That's closer to my up tp $3 Billion than your $1.2 Billion. Whether the stations are placed on the SH130 corridor or the existing UP corridor, those costs should remain nearly the same. Ideally, you'll want to move the UP trains to Seguin, so new tracks costs on Sections 5 & 6 should remain, but you can reduce those costs somewhat by leaving SH 130 at SH 45 and connecting to the UP corridor just north of San Marcus, where both the ex-MoPac and ex-MKT rail corridors remain in service. Just route the new bypass to the corridor of choice, which of course will vary depending upon which trains (passenger of freight) will be using the new bypass line. Even so, you will still have to spend some more money upgrading the tracks between San Marcus and San Antonio. So can we call the track costs a wash?

I've provided publicly released official links to the data I've been suggesting for my last few posts. The facts I've been stating weren't invented by me.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:51 pm

electricron wrote:Again with the half truths.
Much of SH 130 was designed and built so that double tracks can be accommodated from Georgetown through Austin.


The urban freight rail bypass line goes from the general area of San Antonio to the general area northeast of Austin. So, whether or not a short portion of SH130 could host tracks is irrelevant. That's like saying that someone is a little bit pregnant. SH130 is *not* designed for freight rail. That is not a half truth. It's the truth. Please cite the study which states that freight rail can be accommodated in the SH130 median.

electricron wrote:There's even consideration for tracks to leave the median where the UP intersects north of Austin. There's even consideration for tracks to leave or enter the median at SH 45 south of Austin. The expansion south of SH 45 south can be reconfigured for tracks in the median....but.....


Doesn't matter if there's "consideration". The SH130 alignment is not currently being designed or constructed to support freight rail, and never has been. You're wrong.

electricron wrote:Initial study, freight bypass using existing corridors costs too much, between
http://www.austinchamber.com/public-policy/files/080708_TXDOTASARailPres.pdf
* Grade Separations ($1.2 Billion) Bridges to separate the railroad from streets
* Grade Crossing Closures ($3.5 Million) Closing and rerouting the street at the intersection with the railroad
* Improvements to Existing Railroad Infrastructure ($183 Million) Improving capacity and connectivity on existing rail lines
* New Railroad Corridors ($1.4 - $2.4 Billion)
* Total estimated cost of improvements: Approx. $3.8 Billion


Once again, you cite out of date, irrelevant, or superseded data. The $3.8 billion is for a mega-bypass which is no longer under consideration. The price for the bypass, based on Planning Case B1, and further confirmed in the LSTAR freight bypass alternatives analysis study (being completed this month) is approximately $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion, total.

electricron wrote:SH 130 Study
http://lonestarrail.com/images/uploads/SH_130_Corridor.Fatal_Flaw_Analysis_Report_.090209_.pdf
The SH 130 corridor has been broken into six separate design segments and two separate construction projects. Originally conceived as a multimodal corridor, the northern 49 miles (Segments 1-4) were designed to accommodate a double track rail line running within the center median. In order to verify that such a rail line could be accommodated, Segment 1-4 designers prepared Rail Compatibility Reports to demonstrate that freight rail could actually be constructed within the corridor. While the primary focus of the design was on freight rail, that same space might also facilitate construction of commuter rail facilities. Similar rail compatibility requirements are not, however, a current requirement for the Segment 5-6 construction project; in fact, that Developer is not even required to consider the potential for future rail construction.
With regard to constructing a rail line within the SH 130 corridor, three potential alignment options were considered. The intent of this study was to review each of those options and to assess whether there were any impediments within the various construction segments, as they are currently constructed (1-4), or as they are currently designed (5-6) (i.e. failing to meet design standards, insufficient physical space to locate construction elements, etc.), that could be considered “fatal flaws” for that given option, and that would thus prevent the implementation of that option.
The only viable option was Option 1, which would place the commuter rail alignment within the SH 130 median. The benefits to utilizing the center median include:
• All ROW that would be required for track construction already has, or will be, obtained as part of one of the two SH 130 projects.
• With the SH 130 project already having been through the environmental review process, no complications related to permitting are anticipated for this alignment.
• The commuter rail equipment in use today is able to negotiate the same horizontal curves and profile grades that high speed highway facilities are designed to. As such, it is possible to construct a commuter rail line in the center median which can mimic the geometry of the adjoining mainlanes.
HOWEVER, while Segments 1-4 were required by TxDOT to be rail compatible, and they could accept a commuter rail in the median, TxDOT eliminated those design requirements for Segments 5 & 6. As a result, those last two segments contain features that make use of the overall SH 130 corridor for rail virtually impossible:
• The SH 45 SE interchange contains bridge piers that directly obstruct any median- running rail alignment.
• Serious vertical and horizontal clearance restrictions exist at all overpass and interchange locations.
Design of Segments 5 and 6 are currently at the 30%-60% level and unless those critical issues are addressed immediately, use of the SH 130 corridor for rail is FATALLY FLAWED.

Segments 1-4 criteria required clearances of 23’-0” over railroads and 26’-6” over electrified light rail. Criteria for Segments 5 & 6 do require a clearance of 23’-0” over railroads, but since the requirement for “rail compatibility” in Segments 5 & 6 was eliminated, those clearances were only applied at locations where new roadways passed over existing railroads. There was no consideration given to construction of a new railroad underneath structures that are being built over highway lanes constructed as part of those Segments.
It is important to note that original design studies for the ASA commuter rail project anticipated the use of bi-level coaches having approximate heights of 18 feet. While clearance requirements imposed on Segments 1-4 (23’-0”) would accommodate such cars, the 16’-6” clearances used under bridges in Segments 5 & 6 would not do so.


You have excellent copy and paste skills. Now please point out where any of this is relevant to the freight bypass line. Segments 1-4 could possibly support commuter rail (which is not planned for the SH130 median), but not freight. Segments 5&6 will support *no* rail. SH130 will NOT be used for the freight rail bypass line.

electricron wrote:I would like to point out that single level HSR cars could be just 13.1 feet tall. Talgo Series 8 car specifications http://www.talgoamerica.com/series8-passengerCars.aspx
Talgo Series 8 Passenger Coaches
Pneumatic Brake Equipment = Three disc brakes per axle (two on the wheels)
Electric Brake Equipment = Regenerative (4200 kW) and rheostatic (3200 kW)
Maximum Width = 9.65 feet (2.942 m)
Height = 13.1 feet (4 m)
Maximum Commercial Speed = 217 mph (350 km/h)
Maximum Lateral Acceleration in Curve = 1.2 m/s2
Maximum Cant Deficiency = 7.2 inches
Track Gauge = 56.496 inches (1435 mm)
Maximum Axle Weight = 17 Tons
Type of Operation = Single Trainset or Multiple Mode
Sense of Travel = Push – Pull (Bi-directional)
Car Body Length = 43.1 feet (13.14 m)
Car Body Width = 9.65 feet (2.942 m) wide

So, even Sections 5 & 6 of SH 130 could accommodate single level trains if just one of the fatal flaws mentioned above were fixed. But, here's a juicy fact, not double stacked containers freight trains.


Again, way to copy and paste. Totally irrelevant information, but at least your final sentence is mostly true.

electricron wrote:Tall freight trains using SH130 as the bypass needed for Lone Star commuter trains to run on existing UP tracks have to enter and exit SH130 within Sections 1 thru 4.


Irrelevant. The bypass will not use SH130. And SH130 does not support freight rail.

electricron wrote:A high speed train could just as easy if the one fatal fall design isn't corrected.


...which it won't be. There is no requirement for the developer to design and build to rail standards. The developer will not; to do so would mean incurring additional cost for no discernible benefit to the highway or the developer's bottom line.

electricron wrote:So, the SH 130 median is easily available for TXHSR and wouldn't even require an Environmental Assessment, because the Environmental Impact Study has already been completed with double track rail line running in its median.


Wrong. The existing EIS would only ease the permitting process. It would not necessarily eliminate the requirement for a supplemental or even new EA or EIS. In any case, this is still irrelevant, because SH130 does not support freight rail. It's even irrelevant to the HSR study, since the process is: level 1 (corridor) study first. TxDOT cannot bias or predetermine the final alignment based on what is easiest from an environmental analysis standpoint. Again, you demonstrate a basic ignorance of project development and NEPA requirements/regulations.

electricron wrote:To refresh real facts derived from the links I provided:
*Corridor already owned by TXDOT
*Rail already included within the EISA
*EISA completed with Federal approval
*Overpasses already built over 23 feet tall
*All that is missing is finding the money for laying tracks, building stations, and buying trains.....

That's why it is the easiest and simplest HSR corridor through Austin. Every other potential corridor requires starting with Step 1.....


...in your humble opinion. The TxDOT HSR study has not even begun considering alignments. Perhaps they'll choose a portion of SH130, perhaps they won't. But no one will know that until the end of the EIS process, which is years and years away.

You're confusing the issue, anyway. One of your first panicked assertions was that the freight bypass line would displace the HSR. Neither the freight bypass nor the TxDOT HSR alignment has been chosen. That's the crux of the issue, which you totally avoid, preferring instead to copy and paste information proving...what? That a small portion of the HSR alignment could go in the median of SH130? So what?
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:21 pm

Moderator's Note: Play nice, gentlemen - enough with the ad hominem attacks. We'll be watching this topic closely.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby fauxcelt » Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:27 pm

After reading all of the comments in this discussion, the next time we have to drive through there on SH 130, I will be looking at it somewhat differently from our previous trips on it. We used SH 130 mainly because we didn't like the heavy traffic on I-35 through downtown Austin. We didn't like having to stop three or four times to pay the toll but we considered it to be a necessary evil to avoid the congestion.
And my sister who lives in Austin completely agrees with the comment about the congested traffic in Austin.

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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Sun Apr 08, 2012 1:47 am

jb9152 wrote:The TxDOT HSR study has not even begun considering alignments. Perhaps they'll choose a portion of SH130, perhaps they won't. But no one will know that until the end of the EIS process, which is years and years away.
That a small portion of the HSR alignment could go in the median of SH130? So what?


True, TXHSR hasn't chosen an alignment. when did I ever state they had? What I did state was that SH130 median would make an excellent alignment for TXHSR. Sections 1 thru 4 of SH 130 goes all the way from the UP mainline just north of Round Rock to SH45, just northeast of the UP line just north of San Marcos. While it is just a short portion of a potential HSR line from Dallas to San Antonio, it can be used to get through an ever growing Austin metro area, and the land is already in state ownership with a rail component already included within an existing EISA approved by the Feds.

I am not aware of any new freight bypass routing around Austin. It's not presently anywhere on Lone Star's website. I had posted the sole link to any freight bypass studies performed by Lone Star to date. If there is another one I can't find, could you please post a link to it!
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:03 pm

electricron wrote:
jb9152 wrote:The TxDOT HSR study has not even begun considering alignments. Perhaps they'll choose a portion of SH130, perhaps they won't. But no one will know that until the end of the EIS process, which is years and years away.
That a small portion of the HSR alignment could go in the median of SH130? So what?


True, TXHSR hasn't chosen an alignment. when did I ever state they had?


You made a fairly hysterical claim that the LSTAR freight bypass line "...would occupy the preferred right-of-way a potential Dallas, Waco, Temple, Austin, San Antonio TXHSR line would want to use..." How could you possibly know that, or assert that, if, as you say above, "TXHSR hasn't chosen an alignment"?

electricron wrote:What I did state was that SH130 median would make an excellent alignment for TXHSR. Sections 1 thru 4 of SH 130 goes all the way from the UP mainline just north of Round Rock to SH45, just northeast of the UP line just north of San Marcos. While it is just a short portion of a potential HSR line from Dallas to San Antonio, it can be used to get through an ever growing Austin metro area, and the land is already in state ownership with a rail component already included within an existing EISA approved by the Feds.


No disagreement - the tiny piece of the full system that could possibly occupy SH130 Sections 1 through 4 *could* physically occupy that space; there is no guarantee that the geometry, which supports commuter rail standards, will support HSR standards. Your assertion that there is an existing EIS "with rail component" is also not entirely accurate. The SH130 environmental study never contemplated 220 mph HSR trains; in addition, the FRA's guidance on environmental analysis for HSIPR requires completion of a corridor level EIS first, before actual alignment alternatives are even considered. There is no reason to believe either that SH130 will be chosen someday or not. So, I agree with your basic opinion that HSR could physically fit in Sections 1 through 4, there's nothing to suggest that that would be "the preferred right-of-way", as you call it. That decision is years, and possibly decades away.

electricron wrote:I am not aware of any new freight bypass routing around Austin. It's not presently anywhere on Lone Star's website. I had posted the sole link to any freight bypass studies performed by Lone Star to date. If there is another one I can't find, could you please post a link to it!


It's not posted yet, because the final draft has not been delivered to the District. References to the new bypass routing (which is not "around Austin", by the way, but between Seguin and Taylor) might be found in Board and Executive Committee meeting minutes. The route is based on Planning Case B1 from the study you copied and pasted.
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