Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
Contract Signed to Build Texas HSR Line Ahead of the Go-Ahead
There’s been another step toward high-speed rail in Texas. Texas Central announced that it has chosen a contractor to build the 240-mile line from Dallas to Houston this month. Railway Track and Structures, citing articles in Archinect and the Houston Chronicle (paywalled), reported Sept. 18 that the company has awarded a $14 billion construction contract to Salini Impregilo of Italy and its U.S. subsidiary, Lane Construction.
Texas Central’s proposed service would whisk patrons between Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston in under 90 minutes using Japanese Shinkansen HSR technology. Trains would depart every 30 minutes at peak weekday hours and hourly during the rest of the 18-hour service day. The company says it’s on track to receive the federal permits it needs to proceed with the project in time to start construction on the line next year. This latest announcement should help it continue to raise the capital it needs to build and open the line — which would be the first entirely privately financed high-speed rail line anywhere.
Dallas Breaks Ground on Suburban Belt Rail Line
Meanwhile, in Texas’ second-largest city, construction has begun on a long-planned regional rail line that aims to ease congestion in one of the most heavily traveled corridors in the Dallas suburbs.
Railway Gazette International reports that Dallas Area Rapid Transit officials held several groundbreaking ceremonies Sept. 19 along the route of the Silver Line, a 42-km (26.1-mile) line running from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Plano. The line, which follows a former St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt) Railway alignment and thus was known during planning as the “Cotton Belt corridor,” will serve communities in northern Tarrant, Dallas and Collin counties and parallel one of the most congested highways in Texas, the northern segment of Interstate 635. (Together with Interstate 20 to Dallas’ south, I-635, which runs to Dallas’ north and east, is known as the LBJ Freeway, the three-quarter beltway around the city.)
The construction project will double-track the Cotton Belt line, which DART acquired from St. Louis Southwestern in 1990 as a future passenger rail corridor. It will also upgrade the tracks for service at 79 mph. A joint venture of Archer Western and Herzog received a $783 million contract to build the line in January. When the line opens for service in late 2022, trains will operate every half hour during weekday peak hours (6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.) and hourly off-peak and on weekends.
First Metro Line Opens in Changzhou
Changzhou, a city of just under 4.6 million in China’s Yangtze Delta region, west of Shanghai, has become the 35th city in the country and the fourth in Jiangsu province to have metro service with the launch of trial service on Line 1 Sept. 21.
As reported in the International Railway Journal, Changzhou’s first metro line runs 34.2 km (21.25 miles) from Forest Park in the north to Nanxiashu in the south, connecting with main line rail service at Changzhou North and Changzhou stations. The line has 29 stations, all but two of them underground; the two southernmost stations sit on a 2.2-km (1.37-mile) elevated viaduct.
Line 1 is the first of six metro lines planned for the city; the full system will have 129 km (80.15 miles) of routes. Work is already underway on east-west Line 2, a 19.9-km (12.37-mile) route set to open in 2021.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was changed to correct the project status of a high-speed rail line in Texas.
Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.