The Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council last week discussed the proposed commuter rail project between downtown Houston and downtown Galveston.
"Representatives of the City of Galveston gave a briefing to the H-GAC," reported transportation consultant Barry Goodman. "The briefing included all of the relevant factors that are covered in the advanced planning study for this commuter rail line, which is a cost of about $400 million and on an alignment utilizing the existing Union Pacific rail line that would upgrade that rail line to a 79 miles per hour capability for both freight and passenger travel."
Goodman said the proposed rail line was well received by the TPC.
"We think it is a great program," Goodman said. "We've got a lot of support along the corridor - like Dickinson, League City, Webster, Galveston of course, Texas City and La Marque."
Goodman said the next phase is "alternatives analysis", which will include public meetings.
"I think there is a growing interest," he said. "We know that the approximate midway point between Houston and Galveston generates an equal demand in both directions."
He said the terminus locations in the two cities are still being discussed. In Houston, connections with the METRO rail system are being considered. In Galveston, a Downtown Terminal in connection with the Livable Communities Initiative has been the subject of discussions by the Intermodal Transportation Committee.
"The commuter rail system is designed to interface both with the Railroad Museum terminus, but as well on the Port side during the week; and go all the way to UTMB to serve that major population base," Goodman said. "The Port of Galveston has also requested that the City take a look at an intermodal terminal that would be focused on cruise ship activity, and a lot of bus activity that comes into the port, on their side of Harborside; and also the potential to create more of a 24/7 retail environment on the Port side of downtown."
Goodman said the time has come for commuter rail between Houston and Galveston.
"It used to be years ago that people who were commuting from the suburbs to downtown and working downtown, the biggest part of the commute cost was the parking fees in the downtown garages," he said. "That has changed. Now the commute cost is the biggest part of the cost, even though parking fees are high."