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Texas Lawmakers Trying to Resurrect the Push for San Antonio-Austin Passenger Rail

Some Texas lawmakers are looking to resurrect the decades-old idea of a passenger rail line connecting San Antonio and Austin. In late August, 20 state reps sent a letter to the chairman of the House Transportation Committee requesting a feasibility study ahead of the 2021 legislative session on a rail link between the cities. In the letter, legislators including Reps. Diego Bernal, Ray Lopez and Barbara Gervin-Hawkins pointed to projected population growth in both cities and suggested a rail might relieve highway congestion. Projections from the Texas Demographic Center show that suburban Williamson, Hays and Comal counties also stand to gain 2 million more residents by 2050. "As we look toward this future, congestion will only become more severe," the lawmakers wrote. The idea of an Austin-San Antonio commuter rail isn't new. Officials in both cities have been floating such proposals for decades. The last attempt fizzled in 2016 after the Union Pacific withdrew from a rail district seeking to link the two cities. The railroad company worried development of a passenger line would hurt its ability to move freight. The state reps' renewed interest in SA-Austin rail comes as the Alamo City grapples with remaking its transit options to deal with rapid population growth. ConnectSA, a committee established by Ron Nirenberg to address growing road congestion, has proposed $2.7 billion in new transportation projects, many hinging on voter approval. Those proposals don't include a light rail, which Alamo City voters have rejected twice since the year 2000.

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