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Still debating where to put the Houston high speed rail terminal

While people in the rural counties are trying to kill the proposed high speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, some other people here in Houston are thinking about where a station should be.

[Lynn] Hardwin was among a few dozen people attending an open house held by Texas Central Partners on April 23 at the venerable Tin Hall dance hall, situated on a quiet 40 acres in Cypress since 1890. TCP is the development arm of the project and would own and operate the rail service.

Members of Houston High Speed Rail Watch, a coalition of central Houston neighborhoods that includes Super Neighborhoods 12, 22 and 51 as well as other groups, also attended the event, which focused on dispelling misconceptions that have erupted since the Federal Railroad Administration and Texas Department of Transportation began an environmental review process of the privately-funded project last summer.

It will be months before new details emerge about the proposed rail’s exact route and where it might terminate in Houston. From 290 and Loop 610, TCP is eyeing an alignment on Interstate 10 into downtown, but Union Pacific lines in the Washington Avenue area have been considered, too.

The coalition is advocating a path that avoids residential neighborhoods, says spokesman Mark Klein, who is president of Super Neighborhood 12 along the North Loop east of U.S. 290.

The group argues that only a small percentage of Houston residents will use the new rail service – not enough to justify the potential impact to well-established neighborhoods located in its path to the Central Business District downtown.

“We envision a rail terminus located northwest of the 610 Loop, such as at the Northwest Mall, or routing the line to a downtown terminus along freeways or through industrial areas,” Klein said.

[…]

Details about the exact route and how much property will be needed outside of existing rail or other public rights-of-way won’t be known until the draft environmental impact statement is completed, by early 2016. Two station locations are being eyed in Dallas, but TCP has not settled on a Houston station location. While it hopes to put a station downtown, officials say the line could terminate elsewhere.

Jersey Village might be another option for a station location, says City Manager Mike Castro, who also attended the Cypress open house.

The city created a transit-oriented development district on U.S. 290 at Jones Road in its master plan in anticipation of commuter rail a few years ago, Castro said, adding that the zone could accommodate a station for the high-speed rail service, too.

“We’ll wait for the environmental review,” Castro said. “Noise impacts are always a concern of ours, but overall, I see a very positive impact for Jersey Village, particularly if there is potential for a station location there.”

See here, here, and here for some background. The original idea was to have the high speed rail line come into downtown, since that is likely to be a common destination for business travelers and it’s also well connected to other transit options. That means routing the line through residential neighborhoods, which is a big problem if you’ve got these elevated tracks. Having the terminal be farther out, such as at the Northwest Transit Center, solves these problems but creates others, since an isolated terminal is less useful to someone who doesn’t want to have to park at it or doesn’t want to rent a car. Having the Uptown Line in place would help with that, and having the Uptown Line plus at least one other line that connects to it – the Universities Line and/or an Inner Katy Line – would help a lot more. Maybe Metro’s peace treaty with John Culberson can help make these things happen. Who knows? There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of possibilities here, some more promising than others. We’ll know more as the environmental impact statement process concludes.

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