Rail Preservation and Economic Development Activities of Local Rail Planning Districts in Texas


External link: http://amonline.trb.org/trb-59976-2014-1.2467145/t-1119-1.2485107/401-1.2476290/14-5562-1.2485634/14-5562-1.2485637?qr=1

Publication date: January 1, 2014

Capsule summary: This paper examines the history of, and extent to which Texas Rural Railroad Transportation Districts (RRTDs) have preserved rail infrastructure and implemented rail-based development projects.

Author(s): Morgan, Curtis; Warner, Jeffery

Publisher(s): Transportation Research Board

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Description: RRTDs are subdivisions of Texas state governments that were first created in 1981 in order to preserve rural rail infrastructure and prevent the abandonment of important rural rail networks. RRTDs have the capacity to purchase, operate, and/or build new railroad and intermodal facilities, the right of eminent domain, and the ability to issue revenue anticipation bonds. However, they cannot levy taxes in order to fund their operations, and most do not receive any direct state-level funding.

Objectives: Researchers sought to ascertain the current status of each RRTD’s board of directors, categorize motivations for creating an RRTD, and catalogue recent projects carried out by RRTDs to determine their effectiveness. RRTD boards of directors were categorized as active, semi-active, and inactive. Motivations for forming an RRTD were grouped into three categories: rail preservation, economic development, and improved passenger rail service. RRTD projects were categorized as railroad right-of-way, economic development, other railroad-related activities, and non-railroad related activities.

Findings: Researchers found that of the 42 RRTDs in Texas, 31% have an active board of directors, 19% have a semi-active board, and 48% have an inactive board. They also determined that 36% of RRTDs were formed in response to the threat of rail abandonment, 19% were formed to promote economic activity, 4% were formed for multiple reasons, and at least one was formed to improve passenger rail service. Multi-county RRTDs were more likely to be formed to prevent rail abandonment, while single-county RRTDs were more likely to promote economic development projects. RRTDs have both succeeded and failed in achieving their missions, but RRTDs that could generate funds through government grants were able to preserve rail service in places where it would have otherwise been abandoned.

Recommendations: With the growing demand for rail and state interest in rail planning, coordination between and local- and state-level rail planning has become increasingly important. RRTDs and other local rail planning districts should be incorporated into statewide planning processes in order to sustain local rail service and ensure that statewide goals are met.

Research Theme: Financial Strategies, Freight and Logistics

Community Type: Rural

Transportation Mode:

Planning Scope:

Organization Type:

Planning Subject: Development, Facility or Land Use, Plan Implementation, Transportation Planning