Union Pacific is open to considering new proposals for passenger rail connecting San Antonio and Austin, the Assistant Vice President of public affairs for Union Pacific, Clint Schelbitzki, said in a phone call with Restart LSRD founder Clay Anderson.
“What I can say is if the MPOs want to go forward with something, we always look at new plans as new plans, not as things from 6 or 7 years ago,” Schelbitzki said, referring to the failed Lone Star Rail plan. “We will take a fresh look at proposals as they come up.”
Union Pacific pulled out of an agreement with the Lone Star Rail District to allow passenger trains on its right of way in 2016, causing the Alamo Area MPO (AAMPO) and Capital Area MPO (CAMPO) to indefinitely suspend planning for passenger rail service between San Antonio and Austin. Since then, key staff members of Union Pacific have left the organization, including the Director of Network Planning, the position that coordinates passenger rail operations in Texas, Schelbitzki said.
Though the current perception among many in Central Texas is that Union Pacific was the actor that doomed passenger rail between San Antonio and Austin, the company actually has a track record of working with passenger rail operators elsewhere.
“UP is not averse to passenger rail,” Schelbitzki said. “There have been a lot of successful projects that we have worked on, specifically in California where we have operations like the Capitol Corridor.”
Even though Union Pacific is willing to consider plans for a passenger rail between San Antonio and Austin, AAMPO and CAMPO have not recently approached the organization to restart negotiations. In order to meet the needs of our current residents and future growth, it is essential for AAMPO and CAMPO to restart planning for passenger rail so the MPOs and Union Pacific can come to a solution for accommodating both freight and passenger trains.