Lone Star Rail District committee moves forward with rail system designs, plans

By: 

News Reporter

The Lone Star Rail District committee is moving forward with plans to construct a new rail system that will run from San Antonio to Georgetown and include a San Marcos stop.

The committee met March 7 to discuss studies, funding and designs for the commuter rail. Members spoke with various agencies such as Union Pacific and the Department of Transportation. Funding was allocated at the meeting and reports about environmental research were reviewed.

The committee discussed their next steps, which include getting approval for the Federal Environmental Process which involves impact studies, said Alison Schulze, rail district administrator and senior planner. The committee is working with the Department of Transportation to help expedite the process for construction to begin.

“We’re hoping to get the environmental process done in three years,” Schulze said. “After, we will start building platforms and stations. All in all, we hope to have passengers on the rail in about five years.”

Schulze said Austin and San Antonio, two large urban areas, will benefit from the rail service, as well as Hays County residents since San Marcos will be on the route. Passengers will be able to pay for a one-way ticket or purchase a commuter pass to ride more frequently, Schulze said. Ticket prices have not yet been finalized.

The rail’s 16 stations will eventually serve more than three million people in five counties with 32 trains running daily in each direction for commuters, students and regional travelers. The rail district will have a 75-minute express service from downtown Austin to San Antonio with stops in San Marcos and New Braunfels.

Sid Covington, chair of the LSTAR committee, said the rail district will help alleviate the traffic congestion that occurs along Interstate Highway 35 by providing an alternative mode of transportation.

“As I heard someone say years ago, we’ve got more acres of vehicle than acres of pavement,” Covington said.

Those vehicles will eventually run out of space, but Covington said he believes LSTAR will fix the problem.

The train is expected to run parallel to IH-35. Union Pacific currently owns the tracks LSTAR plans to use, and the majority of its trains will be rerouted east of IH-35, Schulze said.

“There are several things developing at the federal level that we’ve been actively engaging and trying to pursue,” said Ross Milloy, interim executive director of the Lone Star Rail District. “We have to recognize unless we can reach an agreement with Union Pacific about the re-alignment of the route we’re not going to be able to move forward on this project.”

Dozens of regional rail services have been achieving wide popularity with systems like the Trinity Railway Express connecting Dallas and Fort Worth, and the New Mexico Rail Runner Express connecting Albuquerque and Santa Fe, according to rail district’s website.