Austin Mayor Kirk Watson went to Washington, D.C., Wednesday to advocate for federal investment into Texas’ transportation infrastructure, speaking before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials. Watson addressed Texas' need for commuter rail service during a hearing called “Getting on the Right Track: Navigating the Future of Intercity Passenger Rail in America," Austin NBC affiliate KXAN reported.
The mayor hopes to tap into projects coming from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (otherwise called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal) and the tens of billions of dollars in funding set aside for new high-speed Amtrak rail service.
“Amtrak was given a great deal of money, $66 billion over the next few years, which is frankly, more money than Amtrak has received since it was created back in 1972,” Watson said. More than $20 billion of that will go toward fixing and upgrading current infrastructure, he added.
Watson said Texas is a primary candidate for new high-speed rail service because of its significant population growth and the proximity of major cities: Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, KXAN reported. “The Texas triangle of Dallas-Fort Worth to Houston to San Antonio, and back up through Austin to DFW has about 70 percent of the population of the state of Texas, 74 percent of the economy,” Watson said. “I want us to get some of that money.”
Watson has discussed the idea with Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner this year, he said, adding that the Texas Department of Transportation has also applied for a grant under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to examine what extensive rail service in Texas may look like.
“All of these things are happening right now. And that’s one of the reasons that I jumped on an airplane and came up here so that I could I could advocate for what I think we need to get,” Watson said.