Navigating Interstate 45 from Dallas to Houston takes just over four hours. If Robert Eckels, president of Texas Central High-Speed Railway, has anything to do with it, that journey will soon take less than two.
Eckels, a former judge in Harris County, Texas, hopes to build the nation's first privately-funded bullet train in the Lone Star State. "This is designed to be a profitable high-speed rail system that will serve the people of these two great cities and in between and, ultimately, the whole state of Texas," Eckels said at a high-speed rail forum Aug. 21.
Texas is no stranger to the idea of high speed rail. In 2010, Texas led a failed attempt to win some of the $8 billion President Barack H. Obama set aside for high-speed rail. This time, Eckels told The Texas Tribune Aug. 21, is different:
“I predict Texas will be the first state that has high-speed rail because it’s private-sector driven,” Fickes said.
Private-sector driven may be an understatement. As was true for the 2010 effort, a major player in the new proposal is the Central Japan Railway Company -- the organization that runs Japan's bullet train. In this sense, the project offers a test case for global capital in pursuit of social good.
The project's $10 billion pricetag also places it among the most expensive private works programs in the world. The Burj Khalifa, in comparison, cost just $1.5 billion to build.
In spite of these obstacles, people like Gary Fickes, chairman of the Texas High-Speed Rail and Train Corporation, say that they're optimistic. “They’re spending real money on high-speed rail to try and get things done,” Fickes told The Texas Tribune, “I think they’re the real deal.”