affordable mobility for texans
Driving one’s own vehicle costs 50 cents a mile or more, including fuel, insurance, wear and tear, and so on. That cost increases with the amount of time it takes to get around on our region’s increasingly congested highways. Lone Star Rail will provide a travel alternative that is not only convenient, reliable, and congestion-proof, but also affordable to the consumer on a per-mile basis.
It’s also affordable to the region as a whole, when compared to the much higher cost of adding equivalent roadway capacity. All transportation is subsidized — that 50-cents-a-mile cost does not include the tolls or taxes paid to build and maintain roadways, or the cost of building parking lots or structures that gets passed along in rents and prices. Lone Star Rail’s business plan includes contributions from a number of private and public sources to support the project’s construction and operations. However, through innovative financing methods, Lone Star Rail aims to find those funds in ways that don’t compete with other needed public services.
The Lone Star Rail project, when complete at its full service level, is estimated to cost between $2 billion and $3 billion, including track, structures, stations, operations & maintenance facility, locomotives and coaches. These capital expenses would be covered over time through Federal grants and loans, State of Texas sources such as the Texas Rail Relocation Fund, and private investment. As a point of comparison, using an estimate of $10,000,000 per lane-mile to add lanes to I-35, total project capital cost to add equivalent highway capacity (4 lanes per direction) to 118 miles of the corridor would cost approximately $9.4 billion.
Net operating and maintenance (O&M) and lifecycle expenses for the LSTAR will be shared between the local jurisdictions it serves in order to assure affordability. One-third of the cost targets are allocated to
- the City of Austin & Travis County;
- the City of San Antonio & Bexar County; and
- the remaining smaller cities and their counties.
The Lone Star Rail business plan allocates these costs as follows:
|City of Austin & Travis County||$10.6 million||$19.6 million||$33.8 million|
|City of San Antonio & Bexar County||$10.6 million||$19.6 million||$33.8 million|
|Smaller cities and their counties||$10.6 million||$19.6 million||$33.8 million|
Currently, the cities of Austin, San Marcos, New Braunfels and Schertz, and the Austin Community College District have executed agreements to provide local funding. Discussions are ongoing with the cities of Hutto, Taylor, Georgetown, Buda, Kyle, and San Antonio.
Multiple strategies are being used to allow for innovative ways for these communities to deliver these contributions. Chief among them is tax-increment financing, in which the added value of properties in LSTAR station areas is captured and directed toward the project. This leaves the communities’ existing tax base intact to fund other community needs.
Average annual operations and maintenance and lifecycle costs for highways are roughly equivalent to those for passenger rail, assuming equivalent capacity.