In 2005 the citizens of Texas approved a constitutional amendment creating the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund, which would help share the cost of relocating and improving public or private rail facilities.
What is the fund for and why is it needed?
Freight rail traffic in Texas has doubled since the passage of NAFTA, and the U.S. Department of Transportation projects that freight traffic throughout the rail system will grow between 65 and 85 percent over the next two decades. Much of our state's freight rail infrastructure is aging and needs to be upgraded, or lacks the capacity to handle anticipated growth, or is constrained by its location in urban areas. The Rail Relocation Fund helps the state participate and provide an incentive for investments in needed upgrades to our rail system.
Why is this something Texas taxpayers should support?
The Texas Department of Transportation estimates that the state's freight rail system needs more than $17 billion in capital improvements. The railroads and other private owners of that infrastructure are primarily responsible for making those investments. However, relocating freight rail traffic to new and improved corridors will also provide benefits to the public, such as:
- Improving safety (Texas leads the nation in car-train accidents).
- Fostering community and economic development, both along existing and new freight lines.
- Creating opportunities to move more freight by rail, freeing up highway capacity now being used by truck traffic.
- Freeing up existing rail routes for passenger service such as the LSTAR.
- Increasing Texas' economic competitiveness compared to states with more robust and modern freight rail systems.
These public benefits justify the state's participation in rail relocation and led the voters of Texas to approve creating the Rail Relocation Fund.
How much money is in the Fund?
To date, the Legislature has appropriated just over $180 million to this fund, pending certification from the Texas Comptroller. Once certified, these funds can be bonded against and used to supplement and leverage several billion dollars in public and private investment. Future one-time appropriations, and ultimately a permanent funding source for the Rail Relocation Fund, will be considered by the Legislature in 2013 and beyond.
Visit the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Association website at railrelo.org to learn more.
Click here to view the Lone Star Rail District Resolution in Support of the Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund (2008).