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Meadows hops aboard high-speed rail commissionFebruary 3, 2014
A. Lee Graham
Ensuring Fort Worth’s place on a possible high-speed rail line has prompted Bill Meadows to hop aboard a proposed commission dedicated to Fort Worth-Dallas bullet train service.
“This is a huge issue for the state and Fort Worth,” said Meadows, 60, former commissioner of the Texas Transportation Commission and former Fort Worth city councilman.
After fighting for dollars that helped seed $16 billion in North Texas road projects, Meadows is prepared to serve as presiding officer of a high-speed rail commission whose creation was scheduled for consideration at the Texas Transportation Commission’s Jan. 30 regular meeting.
In that role Meadows would oversee plans to combine highway rights of way statewide and the high-speed rail line that a private company and its Japanese partner have proposed building between Houston and Dallas by 2021.
The decision on the route – through what cities – is not final, prompting Meadows and other transportation officials to lobby not only for their home cities but also for a broader vision that could see 220-mph trains connecting the state’s most populous areas. The Business Press spoke to Meadows before the meeting to finalize the high-speed rail commission.
You stepped down from the Texas Transportation Commission last April. Why the interest in this new commission?
First and foremost, this is an important issue. Huge. Texas needs high-speed rail. Texas commuters would have access to many cities. We will work to connect Fort Worth to Arlington and Dallas.
High-speed rail is more than likely to become the transportation mode to connect Texans in the 21st century, particularly with the population projections we’re looking at. The truth is we won’t have the geography or infrastructure to serve the future population.
This commission’s focus is connecting Fort Worth and Dallas. Our charge is to look at route alternatives. Right now, we’re looking at a three-station concept for Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth.
Is that the likely concept that will gain your official support, or is it just one of many?
Yes. Of course, the commission hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, so we’re talking rather presumptuously. There is no question that downtown Fort Worth needs to be a terminus.
What about financing?
Yes, the capital plan is a big focus. But again, nothing specific has been discussed.
Do you foresee challenges for Fort Worth competing with Dallas and Houston, which are bigger both in terms of population and geography?
That will always be the case. But the greatest [population] growth is in Fort Worth and the western side of the Metroplex. I think something to consider is that connecting Fort Worth and Dallas is good for both cities and for our entertainment districts. You look at traffic on I-30 and that makes our region strong.
Despite what many consider a growing need for high-speed rail, Texans are known for loving their cars and pickup trucks. Could this be a tough sell in a culture so rooted in its automotive independence?
It could, absolutely. Texas has been slow to adapt to public transit. But I think you’ll begin to see a desire for better transit as the population continues to grow and the freeways become more congested.