Although the first high-speed train ride between Houston and Dallas remains years away, a plan that would propel intrastate travel into the future continues to gain momentum.
Texas Central, a private company developing an electric high-speed railway between the state’s two largest cities, announced Friday it has signed a design-build agreement with Italian civil engineering contractor Salini Impregilo and its U.S. subsidiary, Lane Construction Company. The civil works contract, worth an estimated $14 billion, will include design and construction of the viaduct and embankment sections along the 240-mile route, installation of the track system and the alignment and construction of buildings that will house rail-system equipment.
The Houston station will be located at the site of the former Northwest Mall at the intersection of U.S. 290 and Loop 610, with a stop planned for the Brazos Valley between College Station and Huntsville.
Friday’s announcement comes about a week after Texas Central said the Federal Railroad Administration had granted its petition for a Rule of Particular Applicability — a custom set of rules created for the railway that will be used to to ensure its safety and govern its system and operations.
“This agreement brings us one step closer to beginning construction of the civil infrastructure segments of the project,” Texas Central CEO Carlos F. Aguilar said in a statement released by the company. “Salini-Lane’s unmatched track record with rail infrastructure, and very specifically its world-class high-speed rail expertise across the globe, will be central to the completion of America’s first end-to-end high-speed rail system.”
According to a news release from the companies, Salini Impregilo has done business in more than 50 countries on five continents, having built more than 4,000 miles of railway infrastructure in the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.
Salini Impregilo initially partnered with Texas Central last year to work on front-end engineering, performing analyses to develop and optimize construction costs and schedule estimates. Texas Central said that work helped to develop the design-build contract.
“We are thrilled and honored to bring our large-scale railway expertise to this unique opportunity,” Pietro Salini, CEO of Salini Impregilo Group, said in the news release. “This inclusion in bringing high-speed train service to Texas and America, through leading the project’s design and construction, is an invaluable experience.”
Texas Central plans to use technology from Central Japan Railway’s Tokaido Shinkansen train system, which it said has transported more than 10 billion passengers since 1964 without a passenger fatality or injury from operations. Texas Central’s Holly Reed said the train will travel more than 200 mph and take passengers between Houston and Dallas in the span of about 90 minutes, with trains departing every 30 minutes.
Reed said Texas Central hopes to begin construction in 2020 and have the train running by 2026.