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TxDOT passenger rail meetings start Monday in Waco

TxDOT passenger rail meetings start Monday in Waco

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State transportation leaders are inviting the public to a series of meetings on a proposed passenger rail line from Oklahoma City to South Texas that could include stops in Waco and McGregor.

The meetings begin Monday night in Waco and Oklahoma City and will continue through April 4, including an April 1 meeting in Belton.

The state received a $5.6 million federal grant to help fund the study, which will research the project’s viability and environmental effects, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Cross said. The state is providing $2.8 million toward the study but has not identified funding for the rail project, Cross said.

“The state and even the country has been looking at upgrading passenger rail in various corridors, and one of those corridors is the Texas-Oklahoma corridor,” he said. “We want to see what can be done to upgrade passenger rail or extend what’s already offered.”

The study will evaluate existing rail services in an 850-mile area from Oklahoma City to the South Texas cites of Laredo and Brownsville, mostly following the Interstate 35 route. The study area also includes the existing Amtrak Texas Eagle passenger rail line from San Antonio to Dallas-Fort Worth, which passes through Temple, McGregor and Meridian west of I-35.

The study will look at improving connections and speeds on existing routes and creating new routes and stations. Exact routes have not been set.

“It’s all open at this point,” Cross said. “What that (project map) is showing you is the corridor as a whole. It’s not showing you the exact alignment.”

The goal is to offer travelers an alternative to congested highways, Cross said.

The Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization, a regional transportation group, will work to ensure the Waco region is connected to any rail system that develops, director Chris Evilia said. The region includes McGregor, a Waco MPO member.

“We’d like to have access to the system,” Evilia said. “For us, that is important.”

TxDOT is asking for public input on areas where passenger rail is needed and any potential environmental concerns.

The Waco meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Heart of Texas Council of Governments, 1514 S. New Road.

For more information, including the project map and meeting dates, visit www.txokrail.org.

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