Drayton McLane Jr.

Drayton McLane Jr.

High-speed rail will soon be coming to Texas — in part thanks to Temple businessman Drayton McLane Jr. — and the company Texas Central Railroad.

The company was recently approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration to move forward on the construction of a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas. The announcement, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, marks the completion of the final hurdle for the project.

McLane, chairman of the company’s board, said the train is set to be the first high-speed rail system built in the country, and will bring investment to the state.

“We have worked at (this project) for a long time, and this has been a long and lengthy process,” McLane said Monday. “This is a 240-mile construction project that is going to be 25-feet in the air, where there are going to be no road crossings in any part of it. Getting all the permits for (the project) has been a lengthy process for the past seven or eight years.”

The project, with an estimated cost of about $20 billion, will allow travelers to go between the two cities in about 90 minutes with only one stop in College Station.

The trains on the new railway will be faster than traditional trains, using the same technology as Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains that can reach speeds of more than 200 miles per hour. McLane said traditional trains usually travel between 40 and 60 miles per hour.

McLane said the new railway will have two tracks allowing for trains to leave the station every 15 minutes. The cost is expected to be less than the price of a airline flight.

“One of the busiest interstates in America is Interstate 45 from Dallas to Houston,” McLane said. “The traffic is intense going that 240 miles, and this would cut down on the traffic between the two cities. You wouldn’t even need to have reservations, you just would get on the train and be there in 90 minutes.”

McLane said he is hopeful that the construction of this first high-speed line will encourage other cities around the country to make similar connections in the future.

The project has already acquired control of more than 600 parcels of land needed for the project, along with sites for stations in the railway’s three stops, according to the Texas Tribune.

“This is the moment we have been working towards,” Carlos Aguilar, chief executive officer of Texas Central Railroad, said in a statement. “The release of the final (approvals) by the Federal Railroad Administration represents years of work by countless individuals, affirming a very thorough and careful federal regulatory process that will make the Texas Central Railroad the first high-speed rail system to be implemented in the United States.”

ReRoute The Route, an organization opposed to the project, called the proposed path “the most dangerous and cheapest option,” criticized the federal government for the decision, according to The Tribune.

“The Federal Railroad Administration is neglecting its regulatory duty to protect Americans from life-threatening projects like the proposed high-speed rail project in Texas,” organization spokesperson Taylor Ward said via email to the Texas Tribune. “This project has been flawed from the beginning and the FRA has ignored calls from concerned property owners, safety professionals, and even other rail companies.”

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson told the Tribune about his support for the project.

“High-speed rail will be a major part of the future of transportation in Texas, and it will be transformative for the city of Dallas,” Johnson said in a statement. “I am thrilled by the announcement of Texas Central’s latest historic milestones, and I am proud to advocate for this project, which will create thousands of jobs in Dallas, attract new businesses, and strengthen our economy for years to come.”

Texas Central has described the project as “shovel ready” and is expected to begin construction sometime in the first half of 2021 and take about six years to complete.