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Biden Seeks to Revive Texas Bullet Train Project

Texas’s long-stalled bullet train project may be getting a shot in the arm from President Joe Biden.

Biden will be meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida this week in Washington D.C. The two heads of state are scheduled to discuss several major business dealings between Japan and the United States, such as Nippon Steel’s planned purchase of U.S. Steel. According to sources within the White House that spoke to Reuters anonymously, Biden plans to bring up the Texas bullet train project as well, which would involve purchasing several trains from Japan.

The project was first announced in 2014 as a way to lessen travel times between major cities in Texas. Currently, the drive from Houston to Dallas takes at least three hours depending on where a traveler starts from and ends. A Japanese-style passenger bullet train would reduce the travel time to 90 minutes, while also reducing carbon emissions and traffic. Texas, with its wide-open spaces and distant metropolises, has long been seen as the perfect place to import the idea of bullet trains.

However, the project has been mired in problems since day one. The projected cost has ballooned to as much as $30 billion. Also, landowners along the proposed route have balked at the construction and increased noise of the railroad. In ten years, the bullet train seems to be no closer than it was when first announced.

That could change if Biden and Kishida announce public support following their meeting. The president, affectionately known as Amtrack Joe for his enduring love for passenger trains, has long been a supporter of increasing the nation’s rail service. As the airline industry flails in the wake of several high-profile equipment failures, the headwinds might finally be right to push the bullet train project.

As it stands, the United States is woefully behind other countries when it comes to high-speed rail. The nation has only a single train that goes above 150 mph, the Acela that runs between Washington D.C. and Boston.

The proposed train route would be built by Texas Central Partners and Amtrak with help from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC.UL) to secure technology from the Central Japan Railway. The plan faces some opposition from Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, who have expressed reticence to use public funds for the project.

By contrast, the bullet train has some significant support from Texas Republicans. Governor Greg Abbott personally wrote to former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in 2020 offering complete support behind the project and promising that it could be completed quickly. In 2022, the Texas Supreme Court also ruled that the Texas Central Partners would have the right of eminent domain to build the railroad through private land.

Whether an announcement of support by Biden would increase or decrease Republican support in Texas is an open question. Either way, interest in building the bullet train continues haltingly after a long, stagnant time.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.

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