ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Imagine if there were a bullet train running from the northern border of our state to the southern border. Well, you might not have to imagine that when a New Mexico senator prevails after introducing a bill to build a high-speed rail line.
If passed, this bill will give the state’s Department of Transportation $1 billion next year to start construction. Just last month, New Mexico State Senator Bill Soules introduced a bill calling for a study to examine the feasibility of building a high-speed rail line from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Denver, Colorado.
But some say he put the cart before the horse – or, in this case, the train before the track – by introducing both construction accounts and study accounts at the same time.
“The reason I put both in is because there’s absolutely no chance the billion dollars will pass through the New Mexico section,” Soules explained. “I suggest we study international highways, and certainly in New Mexico, but we’ve got to put some kind of number on it. It’s very expensive and we know it’s going to be very expensive.”
While Soules doesn’t expect the law to pass, he says it’s already doing its job by starting the conversation.
“The reason for the bill is a news bill, so I’ll probably tell the chair of the Transport and Business Committee, let me present, but then I’ll pull that bill without actually going into the finances and sitting, but there’s us a starting point,” Soules said.
Through his travels, Soules said, high-speed rail can be found all over the world — some going up to 220 miles per hour, dramatically reducing travel times between major cities.
But those moves aren’t found in the US, and Soules wants to change that.
“This really needs to be connected to other areas and the reason for going from Denver to Chihuahua is major metropolitan areas and the idea is to connect people to major metropolitan transportation so we can participate in economic growth and development bring,” Soules said.
But what do our neighboring countries think of such trains? In the north there is some movement for the high-speed railway. Colorado state officials are reviewing a plan that would build a new rail line from Fort Collins to Pueblo, specifically connecting Denver’s airport, but nothing yet that would go as far south as New Mexico.
In Texas, a private developer is attempting to build a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston, but land acquisitions have stalled that project. But further west there are no plans.
In 2009 there was some discussion of a high-speed line from Denver to Albuquerque and to El Paso. Texas, Colorado and New Mexico tried to get the FBI to do a feasibility study, but nothing happened.
Amtrak also has plans to expand this route, but that would not include bullet trains.