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About Us

The first meeting of what would become the East Texas Corridor Council was in 2004, at City Hall in Mineola.  Present were Griff Hubbard and Joy Smith, both of Amtrak, Mineola Mayor Celia Boswell, as well as rail advocates Mercy Rushing, Barbara Musgraves, Natalie Rabicoff, and Tim Geeslin.  In the beginning, ETCC was tri-chaired by Howard Hackney, retired president of Texas Bank and Trust, Texas State Representative Bryan Hughes, and former Mineola Mayor Celia Boswell.  Since 2004, the Corridor Council has steadily grown, and as of 2011 encompasses 35 municipalities.

Judge Richard Anderson, of Harrison County, chairs the East Texas Corridor Council.

History

In the early 1990's, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) section 1010 called for the selection of not more than five corridors in the United States to become designated as high-speed rail corridors.  In the next few years, the initial five corridors were selected and designated.  They include: the Midwest high-speed rail corridor (Chicago to Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee); the Florida high-speed rail corridor (Miami to Orlando and Tampa); the California high-speed rail corridor (San Diego/Los Angeles to the Bay area and Sacramento); the Southeast high-speed rail corridor (Charlotte, Hampton Roads, Washington); and the Pacific Northwest high-speed rail corridor (Eugene and Portland, OR to Seattle and Vancouver, BC.)

In June of 1998, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorized an additional six high-speed rail corridors.  Initially, they included the Gulf Coast high-speed rail corridor; a Keystone high-speed rail corridor; and the Empire State high-speed rail corridor.

By the late 1990's and early 2000's, civic leaders in East Texas had recognized the value in the corridor designations, and they urged the Texas Department of Transportation to apply for one of the TEA-21 openings.  On October 11, 2000, the South Central high-speed rail corridor was announced, which links Dallas/Ft. Worth with (a) Austin and San Antonio, Texas; (b) Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; and (c) Texarkana, Texas/Arkansas and Little Rock, Arkansas.  Since then, the East Texas Corridor Council has worked with representatives from Arkansas to extend the South Central corridor to Memphis, Tennessee.



Since its formation, the Corridor Council has worked with the Texas Department of Transportation, the East Texas Council of Governments, as well as regional organizations from North Central Texas, East Texas, Northwest Louisiana, and North Delta (Northeast Louisiana,) and facilitated the signing of Memorandums of Understanding with the above entities for the shared goal of improved rail infrastructure and increased passenger rail for the region.


The highlighted counties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ETCC.  Click to enlarge.


Additionally, the Corridor Council, with the assistance of Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, secured some $740,000 in federal grants, of which a portion has been transferred to TxDOT to fund a feasibility study between TxDOT's Rail Division, Amtrak, and the Union Pacific railroad.  The study will model the addition of two additional round-trips from the DFW metroplex to Marshall, TX, and then on to Shreveport.

The East Texas Corridor Council is a Texas Rail System Plan stakeholder, as required by statute, and works closely with the TxDOT Rail Division.  The Corridor Council's former chair, current chair of the Government Relations Committee, Tim Vaughn, and ETCC member Karen Owen, Director of the Longview Metropolitan Planning Organization, were tapped in 2010 to serve on the statewide steering committee to assist in the ongoing development of the Texas State Rail Plan.

Why We're Here

Members of the Corridor Council come from all walks of life, from railroaders to politicians to educators--all united under the common goal of increasing rail capacity and passenger rail in the region.

According to data and analysis from Trains Magazine and the Association of American Railroads, the main rail arteries through East Texas, owned by Union Pacific, will be operating at significantly above capacity by 2035 if there are no capacity improvements made.  The Texas Department of Transportation predicts that highway traffic in East Texas will more than double in the next 15 years, with a 70% increase along the I-20 corridor.

In the above, green lines indicate rails operating below capacity, yellow indicates near capacity, orange indicates at capacity, and red indicates above capacity.  Click to enlarge.

With the subsidized highway system becoming increasingly gridlocked, prudence dictates that the citizens of Texas work together to provide alternative and intermodal modes of transportation.  By double-tracking the Union Pacific mainline from Texarkana to Dallas-Ft. Worth, rail volume capacity would more than double--all while costing about as much as two cloverleaf interstate exchanges.  Shifting freight traffic from highways to rail will ease congestion, and is a more economical and environmentally friendly alternative. 

On the passenger side, additional frequencies at the higher speeds made possible by capacity improvements would allow East Texans the ability to travel or commute from Texarkana to Marshall in 50 minutes, Longview to Fort Worth in 160 minutes, Bossier City/Shreveport to DFW in 140 minutes, and Mineola (Tyler) to Dallas in 59 minutes!  This is possible with current technology and conventional speeds.  With the upcoming implementation of Positive Train Control, maximum train speeds could increase, cutting even more time from the schedule.

Higher-speed rail, and, eventually, true High Speed Rail, will be a major boon for Texas, and the East Texas Corridor Council is working to make it happen.


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