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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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:51 pm

That's a proposal that could include a San Antonio bypass in the future.
B1 estimate cost is $1,595,850,000
B2 estimate costs is $1,741,260,000
That's with slight variations between the two routes, effectively bypassing Austin between Tayloe and Sequin.
The A proposal is the proposed bypass around San Antonio, its estimate cost is $1,369,610,000.
The total costs, if both A & B1 bypasses were built, is $2,965,460,000
The total costs, if both A & B2 bypasses were built, is $3,110,870,000
If Lone Star commuter rail is going to operate in San Antonio, wouldn't they need to build both A & B bypass routes to even get permission from the UP to use their corridors between San Antonio and Roundrock? Maybe, maybe not, has anyone actually talked with the UP what they would prefer, or accept?

Whether it's $1.5 or $3 Billion, that's a lot of Lone Star money, State money, or TIF money from local jurisdictions, before spending one penny for passenger rail trains....

Additionally, DFW and Houston would like some of the State money for freight bypasses too. So far, the State has less than $1 Billion allocated for bypass freight corridors. Who knows what further State Legislatures will allocate? Or allocate exclusively for freight trains but not HSR trains?

Lone Star should, just like the TRE and Houston-Galveston commuter rail, plan to finance rail systems on their own, without any State support. Lone Star may be disappointed if they rely exclusively upon TXDOT for financing because TXDOT doesn't have another $Billion to spend on rail projects. TXDOT has never given even one penny to DART, VIA, METRO, or CAPMETRO for rail projects. TXDOT's $1 to $2 Million a year given to Amtrak to support the Heartland Flyer is all the cash they have ever given in the past, besides endless and repeating intercity rail studies...
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:53 pm

electricron wrote:That's a proposal that could include a San Antonio bypass in the future.
B1 estimate cost is $1,595,850,000
B2 estimate costs is $1,741,260,000
That's with slight variations between the two routes, effectively bypassing Austin between Tayloe and Sequin.
The A proposal is the proposed bypass around San Antonio, its estimate cost is $1,369,610,000.
The total costs, if both A & B1 bypasses were built, is $2,965,460,000
The total costs, if both A & B2 bypasses were built, is $3,110,870,000
If Lone Star commuter rail is going to operate in San Antonio, wouldn't they need to build both A & B bypass routes to even get permission from the UP to use their corridors between San Antonio and Roundrock?


No.

electricron wrote:Maybe, maybe not, has anyone actually talked with the UP what they would prefer, or accept?


Way ahead of you. Memorandum of Understanding signed in October 2010. All planning work for the bypass route, plus joint service planning for mixed passenger and freight operations in the current corridor, is ongoing with extensive involvement by UP.

electricron wrote:Whether it's $1.5 or $3 Billion, that's a lot of Lone Star money, State money, or TIF money from local jurisdictions, before spending one penny for passenger rail trains....


HSR will cost in the $100 billion range. You don't seem to have a problem with that. In addition, you need to put that amount in perspective. There are highway projects going on right now in Texas that are in the 10 to 20 mile range that are in the multiple billions of dollars. It's a lot of money, but in the grand scheme, it's peanuts.

Also - as I already explained, the $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion amount is for the FULL, fully built-out bypass line. That is *not* what LSTAR will be paying for. It will only be replacing the capacity lost on the current UP line. If UP wants to have more double track, higher capacity, more crossovers, they will pay for that.

electricron wrote:Additionally, DFW and Houston would like some of the State money for freight bypasses too. So far, the State has less than $1 Billion allocated for bypass freight corridors. Who knows what further State Legislatures will allocate? Or allocate exclusively for freight trains but not HSR trains?


It will be a competitive process, of course. So your recommendation is what? Do nothing, because the process is competitive? LSTAR is already further along in the planning process than any other rail project in the state of Texas. You seem to have no such concerns about a $100 billion HSR program which is currently unfunded (and which will face a significant uphill political battle from here on out, no matter who is President).

electricron wrote:Lone Star should, just like the TRE and Houston-Galveston commuter rail, plan to finance rail systems on their own, without any State support. Lone Star may be disappointed if they rely exclusively upon TXDOT for financing because TXDOT doesn't have another $Billion to spend on rail projects. TXDOT has never given even one penny to DART, VIA, METRO, or CAPMETRO for rail projects. TXDOT's $1 to $2 Million a year given to Amtrak to support the Heartland Flyer is all the cash they have ever given in the past, besides endless and repeating intercity rail studies...


That would be good advice if LSTAR was looking solely to TxDOT to pay for the project. Thankfully, it is not. Again, this displays a basic and profound lack of knowledge of the project, and the project funding/financing methodology for rail in general.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:44 pm

All I'm going to reply is if TXDOT believes they can spend $1.5 Billion to bypass Austin and before spending $1.5 Billion in both DFW and Houston first, that would be a very bad political mistake!

But I am happy they aren't considering using SH130 median for the freight rail bypass anymore. I'm still trying to figure out why UP can divert their trains onto the old MKT corridor for most of the way, and building a new line to Bastrop from San Marcus instead. Seems to me that building just 30 miles or so of new tracks would be far cheaper than building over 100 miles of new tracks.
Last edited by electricron on Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:57 pm

electricron wrote:All I'm going to reply is if TXDOT believes they can spend $1.5 Billion to bypass Austin and before spending $1.5 Billion in both DFW and Houston first, that would be a very bad political mistake!


Noted. Thank you. TxDOT is already spending money in Dallas, on Tower 55.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:03 am

Is TXDOT really contributing that much? From http://www.tradecorridors.com/tower55/
TIGER II grant funding of $34 million,
TXDOT funding of $1 million,
City of Fort Worth funding of $1 million,
and freight railroads funding of approximately $65 million
will be used to install new signaling, bridge upgrades, a third north/south main line, and improved street and pedestrian crossings. Improvements will create jobs, benefit community livability and the environment, and increase rail capacity.
So, out of a total of $101 Million for the Tower 55 work, TXDOT is contributing less than 1% of the total.
Thank you TXDOT. <Sarcasm>
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:04 pm

TxDOT is also spending billions upon billions in the DFW Metroplex on road projects:

DWF Connector at the north end of the airport is approx $1.3 Billion for approx 8 miles.

North Tarrant Express is $2.02 Billion for approx 13 miles on I-35W from downtown to 287 with some work on I -820. Looking into expanding into another phase for 10 more miles, cost not known yet for that additional mileage.

I-635 managed lane project is $2.7 Billion.

Finally, I-35E managed lane project $4.4 Billion for approx 28 miles.

DFW has a successful light rail and commuter rail system, plus a diesel light rail/commuter rail hybrid. Expansion projects are in the planning phases, and are moving along nicely. So tell me again how TxDOT needs to pump yet more billions into DFW while ignoring the rest of the state.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:03 am

In response, lets start with #5 first. DART has spent a total of $4.868 building light rail lines. The Feds have contributed with $1.129 Billion, therefore DART has contributed $3.739 Billion. Meanwhile, TXDOT has provide $0.

#4) The project’s current estimated cost is $3.3 billion in construction, $1.2 billion to purchase right of way. Almost $600 million in funding has been identified, with most coming from $535 million in regional toll revenue funds dedicated to Denton County has been dedicated for this project.
TXDOT raising almost $2 billion, $700 million of that from the Feds, $600 million of that from projects coming in under budget. and of that $600 million in TXDOT discretionary funds. They're still short of funds to build and complete the entire project, so no construction has started yet.

#3) Cost: $2.626 billion. Funding Sources:
Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan - $850 million
Cintra, Meridiam & Dallas Police and Fire Pension Funds - $665 million in equity
Private activity bonds - $615 million
TxDOT funds - $496 million

#2) Costs: 2.050 billion. Funding Sources:
Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan - $650 million
TXDOT funds - $573 million
NTE Mobility Partners - $427 million
Private activity bonds - $400 million

#1) Costs: 1.024 billion. Funding Sources:
TXDOT funds - $667 million
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loan - $250 million
Private activity bonds - $107 million

Generally, TXDOT allocates funding to the Highway Districts as they collect the gas taxes. While it seems DFW is getting more than their share of gas taxes, they aren't. DFW is using private funds and bonds based on tolls to finance most of these highway projects, TXDOT's gas taxes slice of the funding pie for each individual project is therefore smaller.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:34 am

electricron wrote:TxDOT funds - $496 million
TXDOT funds - $573 million
TXDOT funds - $667 million


That looks like over $1.7 billion in TxDOT funds to me. Plus, the point that I'm trying to make is that DFW is already well-served by rail. Expansions are on the books, and planning is progressing. Central Texas has one line, Cap Metro's Red Line, that is a self-described "demonstration project". It is not yet well patronized (although, with weekend service additions hopefully that will be changing), and it suffers from a "downtown" terminal that's not truly downtown.

The section of I-35 between Austin and San Antonio is the 4th most congested in the state. Austin is now the nation's 3rd most congested city. Not medium sized city...3rd most congested city period.

HSR is decades away and will do little to solve the capacity deficit that exists around Austin and to a slightly lesser extent around San Antonio. LSTAR, with the freight bypass (allowing more freight to be transported by train rather than trucks on I-35) and regional/commuter passenger rail, will do more to contribute toward the solution in the near to medium term. HSR needs billions upon billions of dollars that just aren't going to be available anytime soon, and planning for it is truly in its infancy.

Regarding the bypass - the section of the UP mainline through Austin has the ruling grade for the surrounding hundreds of miles. There are grades of over 1% on both sides of the lake, plus a slow-speed s-curve that forces trains to slow down and lose momentum just when they need to be building it to get up the hills on either side. UP actually operates the line through Austin mainly in the north direction only (sending southbound trains via a different route) because it wastes too much time, capacity, and fuel to have trains climb hills in both directions. The bypass is sorely needed to open the door to capacity and velocity increases necessary to make freight rail a viable option for shippers that currently are confined to long distance trucks.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:22 am

jb9152 wrote:Regarding the bypass - the section of the UP mainline through Austin has the ruling grade for the surrounding hundreds of miles. There are grades of over 1% on both sides of the lake, plus a slow-speed s-curve that forces trains to slow down and lose momentum just when they need to be building it to get up the hills on either side. UP actually operates the line through Austin mainly in the north direction only (sending southbound trains via a different route) because it wastes too much time, capacity, and fuel to have trains climb hills in both directions. The bypass is sorely needed to open the door to capacity and velocity increases necessary to make freight rail a viable option for shippers that currently are confined to long distance trucks.

If it is in the best interests of UP to have a better freight corridor in the Austin area, shouldn't they be the ones building it? UP owns the old MKT tracks from Taylor to Smithfield, and from Smithfield to San Marcus. UP owns the old MoPac tracks from Taylor to San Marcus through Austin. UP owns two parallel tracks from San Marcus to San Antonio. It's not like they don't have alternate routes. It's just that they want a better route and one at taxpayers expense.
I'm all for Lone Star rail entering service. It will provide taxpayers with alternate travel choices between Austin and San Antonio. But I also expect it to stand up on its own two feet without any support from TXDOT, or at least TXDOT promising to support DFW and Houston rail projects too.
Golly, TXDOT can't even "fully" finance Austin, DFW, and Houston highway projects now-a-days, it will surely be overloaded trying to fund an UP freight only rail bypass project.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:30 am

electricron wrote:If it is in the best interests of UP to have a better freight corridor in the Austin area, shouldn't they be the ones building it?


You are apparently not reading my posts. Perhaps just skimming? I've said already that UP will be sharing in the cost of the bypass.

electricron wrote:UP owns the old MKT tracks from Taylor to Smithfield, and from Smithfield to San Marcus. UP owns the old MoPac tracks from Taylor to San Marcus through Austin. UP owns two parallel tracks from San Marcus to San Antonio. It's not like they don't have alternate routes. It's just that they want a better route and one at taxpayers expense.


Lone Star Rail needs to free up capacity on the existing line. UP needs a more efficient way than their existing infrastructure (the route you propose, for example, is also capacity and travel time restricted, just as the Austin Sub is). In return for sharing in the cost of that more efficient bypass, Lone Star Rail takes title to an average 100' right of way through the heart of some of the fastest-growing, most valuable land in Central and South Texas. You seem to want to cast this as the public sector doing the whole thing. The reality, which I've also already pointed out if you'll read my postings a little more closely, is that this is a true partnership between UP and LSRD, formalized with a signed MOU.

electricron wrote:I'm all for Lone Star rail entering service. It will provide taxpayers with alternate travel choices between Austin and San Antonio. But I also expect it to stand up on its own two feet without any support from TXDOT, or at least TXDOT promising to support DFW and Houston rail projects too.


Yes, because that's the way projects get done - exclude possible funding and planning partners and "stand up" on your own two feet. Are you serious here? Please name one project that has ever gotten done this way.

electricron wrote:Golly, TXDOT can't even "fully" finance Austin, DFW, and Houston highway projects, it will surely be overloaded funding an UP freight only rail bypass project....


Where did I say that TxDOT would be "...funding an UP freight only rail bypass project..."? That's a great straw man. Unfortunately, I never said it.

So much of this is just picking at nits, anyway. My initial comments still stand - you claimed a hyperbolic "us or them"-type competition for a route between HSR and the freight bypass based on zero real facts, you overstated repeatedly the cost of the freight bypass line, you made basic factual mistakes about the LSTAR project (and backpedaled) and you cited studies that are out of date or irrelevant.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:39 am

jb9152 wrote:
electricron wrote:TxDOT funds - $496 million
TXDOT funds - $573 million
TXDOT funds - $667 million

That looks like over $1.7 billion in TxDOT funds to me. Plus, the point that I'm trying to make is that DFW is already well-served by rail. Expansions are on the books, and planning is progressing.


Yes, $1.7 Billion out of a total of $9 Billion. TXDOT share being 19%. And that's for highways. When you include $4.868 Billion DART has spent on light rail, that total becomes $13.868 Billion and TXDOT's share drops to 12%.

It is true both Houston and DFW have rail services. It s also true they found someone else to help finance it besides TXDOT. It's also true TXDOT's share of major infrastructure needs in the DFW area, at 12%, is very, very low.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:24 pm

electricron wrote:Yes, $1.7 Billion out of a total of $9 Billion. TXDOT share being 19%. And that's for highways. When you include $4.868 Billion DART has spent on light rail, that total becomes $13.868 Billion and TXDOT's share drops to 12%.

It is true both Houston and DFW have rail services. It s also true they found someone else to help finance it besides TXDOT. It's also true TXDOT's share of major infrastructure needs in the DFW area, at 12%, is very, very low.


All still irrelevant to the larger point, which is that funding and financing for the LSTAR project will come from a variety of sources, one of which may be TxDOT.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby fauxcelt » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:16 am

Are they still planning to build this commuter rail line? I am asking this question because I am wondering where the passengers will come from? All of the people who are driving on the congested six lanes of I-35?
We just returned from a visit to this part of Texas. We had to go back and forth between Austin and San Antonio four times. We used I-35 one time and it seemed to be just as congested with heavy traffic as it has been during our previous visits. However, when we used the toll road (SH-130), there was much less traffic on it--especially the section between the junction with I-10 and SH-45. Also, you no longer have to stop and pay money to a human being on any of the toll roads. Instead, there are cameras which record your license plate. Then they send you a bill in the mail a month or two later. I have heard a rumor that SH-130 may default on its bonds because not enough people are using it.
Since most people seem to prefer to drive on a free but congested and crowded highway such as I-35 instead of SH-130 (the toll road), why does someone think they might be willing to switch to riding a train?

Laurence
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby electricron » Thu Jul 17, 2014 8:47 am

fauxcelt wrote:Since most people seem to prefer to drive on a free but congested and crowded highway such as I-35 instead of SH-130 (the toll road), why does someone think they might be willing to switch to riding a train?
Laurence

I don't think many will spend more to ride than they will to drive. The fares on the train should be significantly higher than the tolls on the turnpike.
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Re: Texas: San Antonio - Georgetown

Postby jb9152 » Sat Jul 19, 2014 9:42 am

fauxcelt wrote:Are they still planning to build this commuter rail line?


EIS started this month. Record of Decision (ROD) scheduled for 3 years, with final design and construction scheduled for immediately after receipt of the ROD. Local funding agreements signed with Austin and San Marcos last year, and expectations that before the end of this year Kyle, Buda, Georgetown, New Braunfels and Schertz will also have agreements in place with the Rail District. San Antonio and Round Rock likely in 2015. Discussions ongoing with the counties and community college district regarding their potential participation also ongoing. Joint planning with UPRR ongoing since the signing of the agreement between the railroad and the Rail District in 2010.

fauxcelt wrote:I am asking this question because I am wondering where the passengers will come from?


Well, in the CAMPO planning area (generally, the Austin metropolitan region) 86% of traffic on I-35 during rush hours is generated locally. That means, people traveling into or through downtown Austin from a suburb of Austin. A very underserved market (as you experienced) when it comes to capacity, and no serious plans on the books right now to make any near-term improvements to the highway (although that is needed as well!). LSTAR serves nearly all of the suburbs north and south of Austin, as well as nearly all the suburbs north and south of San Antonio. The travel market to go directly from Austin to San Antonio and back is actually very small in relative terms. Nevertheless, LSRD also plans to operate express train service (in addition to local service connecting the suburbs with the major cities) at peak times between the downtowns.

fauxcelt wrote:We just returned from a visit to this part of Texas. We had to go back and forth between Austin and San Antonio four times. We used I-35 one time and it seemed to be just as congested with heavy traffic as it has been during our previous visits.


Yes, with 100+ people moving to Central Texas every day (and most of them bringing cars), the traffic will get worse, incrementally, every single day. Peak AM travel hours now extend well into the late morning, and peak PM travel hours now start in the early afternoon and extend into the night.

fauxcelt wrote:However, when we used the toll road (SH-130), there was much less traffic on it--especially the section between the junction with I-10 and SH-45. Also, you no longer have to stop and pay money to a human being on any of the toll roads. Instead, there are cameras which record your license plate. Then they send you a bill in the mail a month or two later. I have heard a rumor that SH-130 may default on its bonds because not enough people are using it.


It was always intended as a bypass route, not a connector route. So, it works great if you're traveling through the Austin-San Antonio corridor coming from and going to someplace outside the corridor. But if you're trying to get from Austin to San Antonio or vice versa (or to any of the destinations between), it's not very useful because it's so far to the east of I-35. It can actually take longer at certain times of the day to use SH-130 to go between Austin and San Antonio versus I-35, even with the disaster that I-35 has become.

fauxcelt wrote:Since most people seem to prefer to drive on a free but congested and crowded highway such as I-35 instead of SH-130 (the toll road), why does someone think they might be willing to switch to riding a train?


A few points - first, you said yourself that there was "much less traffic" on SH-130, and that the private operator is close to bankruptcy because the usage has been so miserably low. So, I'll turn the question around - why would someone think that SH-130 would suddenly become attractive to people traveling in to/from destinations in the Austin-San Antonio corridor (when it hasn't been since it opened), when they could ride a train to any destination in the corridor, with stations located *in* the cities and towns, instead of interchanges many miles east of the cities and towns?

Second - as I've already pointed out, SH-130 is *terrible* if you're traveling from suburb to downtown or suburb to suburb through downtown (the overwhelming majority of trips in the two metro areas - 80-plus %). No one is currently, nor will they, drive miles and miles east to an access point for SH-130, go north or south on the toll road, then miles and miles west to get back to the actual destination. The LSTAR service will operate from stations located in the cities and towns of the corridor, adjacent to population and employment centers. SH-130 travels through open spaces, with little to no activity centers.

Last, with those 100+ people moving to Central Texas and no immediate plans to enhance capacity on I-35, the highway commute will become untenable within the decade. A recent study by the Texas Transportation Institute showed that, even if all of the highway improvements on the books in the long-range transportation plan were built, a commute from Round Rock to downtown Austin will take three hours in 20 years. A commute via LSTAR from Round Rock to downtown Austin will take less than 30 minutes. You do the math from there. :wink:

Hope that answered your questions. Let me know if you have others.
Last edited by jb9152 on Sat Jul 19, 2014 9:55 am, edited 3 times in total.
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