SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — After 10 years, Union Pacific is telling the Lone Star Rail District, “no more,” on finding solutions to use their rail lines for a passenger train. The Lone Star Rail District (LSRD) was created to develop a passenger rail line in the Austin-San Antonio Central Texas Corridor and a separate freight rail line.
Union Pacific and the Lone Star Rail District signed an agreement to study the corridor and find out if it is possible to use Union Pacific’s rail line for a passenger train and freight train. Union Pacific says although they agreed to talk, they didn’t think it was possible 10 years ago.
“When we were first approached with this idea more than 10 years ago, we had some concerns at that time that we would not be able to co-mingle passenger rail and freight rail, in a way that Union Pacific could service those customers, for us to grow, and additional partners to come on,” says Jeff DeGraff, a spokesperson for Union Pacific.
“It was a good time to stop the arrangement so Union Pacific can move forward and Lone Star can move into whatever direction they needed to,” DeGraff says.
DeGraff says LSTAR proposed a bypass or loop, but that loop would take Union Pacific around the San Marcos corridor, meaning they could not get to their customers in that area. In the end, Union Pacific feels it would not benefit their business as it grows.
Growth is exactly what LSRD’s legal counsel Bill Bingham with is worried about. He says that as central Texas grows, Interstate 35 will not be able to handle it.
“We are out of room to build new lanes on major arteries. We could add a lane here and there but the reality is we can’t keep up with the traffic and the people that are moving the Central Texas region,” Bingham says.
That is why he is not giving up on the project. He says he scheduled a meeting with Union Pacific in a week or so to discuss what the rail company’s decision to opt out really means. Until then, Bingham says they will continue to move forward with planning and logistics as if the project never stopped.