A high-speed rail line from Fort Worth to Dallas is moving “full steam ahead” and could be ready even before the proposed Dallas-Houston line that received a recent boost with the news that Amtrak is coming on board, officials said. 

First proposed in 2017, the Fort Worth-Dallas high-speed rail project would run parallel to Interstate 30 and is spearheaded by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. That project will formally enter its environmental phase in September and is expected to be cleared by the federal government by 2024. 

The proposed high-speed rail connection between Dallas and Fort Worth will cater to the metroplex’s population of over 8 million, which is expected to reach 11 million by 2045. 

What we know so far about the Fort-Worth-Dallas high-speed rail connection:

  • The 31-mile line will allow travel between Fort Worth and Dallas in about 20 minutes. 
  • Stops on the line include downtown Fort Worth, Arlington’s entertainment district and downtown Dallas. 

“We’ve been going full steam ahead since 2020,” said Brendon Wheeler, program manager for transportation planning at the Council of Governments. “This recent news from Amtrak on the Dallas-Houston line is coming at a perfect time.” 

Wheeler said the environmental approval in 2024 would help the metroplex project catch up to the Dallas to Houston project. 

Amtrak announced it was looking to partner with Texas Central on Aug. 9 to further study and advance a 240-mile, 205 mph route project between Dallas and Houston. Before this announcement, the project had suffered from a decade of delays.

A key to making the Fort Worth-Dallas high-speed project successful is ensuring it is part of a larger, statewide system — similar to the interstate highway system, Wheeler said.

The Council of Governments is also exploring other rail corridors, most notably along Interstate 35, connecting Fort Worth through San Antonio and all the way down to Laredo

At this time, no funding or investments have been committed to the Fort Worth-Dallas rail line, but getting the project environmentally cleared will help change that, Wheeler said. By clearing these hurdles upfront, potential partners will be more likely to invest.

“We’ve heard from several entities that operate high-speed rail around the world, private entities that are interested in funding projects — the major risks that they face coming to the U.S. to try and replicate their success here is they don’t know the federal environmental process like we do, and facing those risks costs money to them,” Wheeler said.

Funding for the Fort Worth-Dallas high-speed rail line will either be fully privately funded or be a public-private partnership. 

Want to share your thoughts on the Fort-Worth-Dallas high-speed rail project? Attend the following public meeting sessions:

  • 5-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, at the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ Pitstick Room (616 Six Flag Drive Arlington, TX).
  • 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at the Fort Worth Central Station’s Community Room (1001 Jones St. Fort Worth, TX)
  • 5-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, at the Tony Shotwell Life Center (2750 Graham St., Grand Prairie, TX)
  • 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, at the West Dallas Multipurpose Center (2828 Fishtrap Road, Dallas, TX)

Once the project is environmentally cleared, the Council of Governments plans to reopen conversations with investors about getting dollars set aside for the corridor, especially now that the Dallas-Houston project is rolling again. Travel between Dallas and Houston would take less than 90 minutes. 

“It’s less of a question of if and more of when for something like that to occur, especially as fast as the state of Texas is growing, as fast as the metros for DFW and Houston are growing. Something’s going to happen,” Wheeler said.

One benefit the Fort Worth-Dallas project has compared to the Dallas-Houston project is the publicly owned right-of-way for the rail line. Since the Fort Worth-Dallas corridor will be parallel to I-30, there will be a limited need to acquire private land. In the case of the Dallas-Houston corridor, the need to purchase land to lay tracks slowed down the project by at least 10 years

Renewed discussion for high-speed rail in Texas comes at a time when unprecedented investment in the nation’s rail infrastructure is available for grabs. 

Allan Rutter, head of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s freight and investment analysis division, said Amtrak has many reasons to be interested in rail transportation in Texas, especially as more federal dollars are being invested in that transit option. 

That includes at least $66 million from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for rail.

“It makes sense for them to continue a relationship with Texas Central, and it makes sense for Texas to request discretionary grant funding under some of the $66 billion worth of intercity passenger rail money that was in the 2021 infrastructure bill,” Rutter said. 

Jason Abrams, senior public relations manager for Amtrak, said in an email that the company supports the state’s federal grant applications for high-speed rail along the Texas Triangle, connecting Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. 

Investing in high-speed rail will help the region prosper, said Rick Harnish, executive director of the High-Speed Rail Alliance. He commended the Council of Governments for its advanced work in getting the necessary clearance for an extension of a high-speed rail line connecting Fort Worth to the Dallas-Houston line. 

“If the state was interested in carrying people by train, (the Dallas-Houston line and Dallas-Fort Worth line) would be one project,” Harnish said. “It really is a critical piece of making Texas work together better, and it makes the Dallas to Houston project much better, much more valuable.”

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker applauded the partnership between Amtrak and Texas Central and encouraged high-speed rail along I-30. 

“With the collaboration of our North Texas neighbors, as well as the North Central Texas Council of Governments and our federal and private-sector partners, high-speed rail can be more than just a vision. It can become reality,” Parker said in a press release.

Arlington Mayor Jim Ross described the technology as transformative and complementary to the already existing transportation network. 

“Adding high-speed rail as an option for people to get to Arlington, whether they live or work here or are visiting our world-class Entertainment District, would be revolutionary,” Ross said in a news release. 

While the Dallas to Houston and Dallas to Fort Worth lines are still years away, Harnish said, it’s now up to the state to come up with a rail plan to connect all the major metropolitan areas in Texas. 

The goal is to have the Fort Worth-Dallas and Dallas-Houston lines be “one seat,” which means there are no transfers between each stop. 

“That’s something the state needs to show leadership on,” Harnish said. “And the fact that the state has not in any way since doing the initial planning of a high-speed line from Fort Worth to San Antonio, they’d been out of the game. And that’s a real bummer for the people who live in Texas.”

Business editor Bob Francis contributed to this article. 

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter at @ssadek19

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Sandra Sadek is the growth reporter for the Fort Worth Report and a Report for America corps member. She writes about Fort Worth's affordable housing crisis, infrastructure and development. Originally...