Burns & McDonnell is leading an environmental impact study (EIS) to examine the effects of implementing regional passenger rail in the rapidly growing area along I-35 in central Texas. The Lone Star Rail District has proposed passenger rail along this 120-mile corridor to reduce congestion by millions of car trips per year. The passenger service, known as the LSTAR, would operate on existing Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) freight rail tracks that run along I-35. It would make 32 round trips daily, with more than 16 stations. More than 30 UPRR freight trains that pass through this region daily would be relocated to a new greenfield alignment east of I-35 and outside of the cities throughout the corridor.
Funding for design and construction will come from private sources, as well as federal and state grants. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is the lead agency, with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) serving as co-lead. Burns & McDonnell is leading the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process that will help the Lone Star Rail District, FHWA, TxDOT and other cooperating agencies make informed decisions on behalf of all stakeholders, expedite federal reviews and approvals, identify financing and implementation strategies, and build consensus among the millions of Texans who will be impacted by the project. The team is charged with producing a single EIS for both passenger rail and freight rail in one document, which is a highly unusual request. They are working on an aggressive schedule to produce the EIS and secure a record of decision (ROD) from FHWA in three years.
The Burns & McDonnell team is also conducting stakeholder and public engagement throughout the project area as part of the EIS, which encompasses eight counties and two metropolitan planning organizations. Engagement activities include open house meetings, bi-lingual communication materials, and an online tool for providing information and collecting feedback from stakeholders. It is available during public meetings, and users can also access it from their home computers, smartphones or tablets.