Proposed passenger rail to connect major Texas cities

Special to the Star

Students and San Marcos residents attended an open house Monday night to voice their opinions on a proposed project to connect Austin and San Antonio by rail.

The Lone Star Regional Rail project is expected to improve mobility along Interstate Highway 35 by creating a passenger rail service from north Austin to downtown San Antonio. The rail will include 16 stops with major ones at Texas A&M University, downtown San Antonio, airports in Austin and San Antonio, Texas State University, downtown Austin and downtown Round Rock.

A committee kicked off a tour through central Texas holding open houses to get feedback from cities on the proposal.

Texas State students attended the open house held at the San Marcos Activity Center and expressed concerns about the rail’s potential impact on taxes and how much money would be needed for construction. 

Katya Copeland, planning senior, said she is excited about the rail, the positive impact it will have on the environment and the access to nearby major cities it will provide the public. However, Copeland worries the city will be financially burdened as a result.

“The project will be funded by growth revenue, which basically means we’ve had someone estimate how much money the city will gain because of the rail and we would be funded accordingly,” said Joe Black, rail manager.

Edward Garza, rhetoric and composition master’s student, said he supports any initiative promoting greener living and “invites people to be adventurous.”

Black said the difference between the rail’s locomotive and the average freight train will be water vapor emissions instead of common, harmful carbon emissions.

“I support anything that’s going to be this good for the environment, and I’m really excited to see this company encouraging students to use the rail,” Copeland said. “I want to see students just be themselves and stop worrying about public transportation not being cool. I-35 is important to this community, and we need to stop congesting it with vehicles that are toxic to our environment.”

Jeanette Shamorrow, planning junior, said certain initiatives are necessary to keep San Marcos “San Marvelous.” Shamorrow commutes and supports the rail proposal.

“I go to San Antonio every weekend,” Shamorrow said. “So this is great.  It’ll save me so much on time and gas.”

Black said the trip would be fast and enjoyable for the passengers. Riders would expect a 40-minute ride to San Antonio and a 30-minute ride to Austin from San Marcos.

The price per passenger has not been established, but officials want the transportation to remain affordable.

“We want (the ticket price) to be cheaper than the gas it would cost to make the trip,” Black said.

The team will start integrating the public’s suggestions in a reboot of the proposal beginning next month. The rail is expected to be finished within three years, according to the most recent proposal at city council.

The next open house is scheduled for the summer after the board is able to take into consideration the comments from Monday’s discussion.