NM lawmaker proposes bill to build high-speed rail across state

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Imagine if there was a high-speed train that went from our state’s northern border to the southern border. Well, you might not have to imagine, if one New Mexico senator gets his way, after he introduced a bill to build a high-speed rail.

If it passes, this bill will give $1 billion to the state’s transportation department next year to start construction. Just last month, New Mexico state Sen. Bill Soules introduced a bill calling for a study to look into the feasibility of putting in a high-speed rail, from Chihuahua, Mexico to Denver, Colorado.

But some say he is putting the cart before the horse – or the train before the track in this case – by introducing both the building bills and the study bill at the same time.

“The reason I put both in is there is absolutely no chance that the billion dollars through the section of New Mexico is going to get passed,” Soules explained. “What I’m proposing we study is international interstate and certainly in New Mexico, but we have to put some sort of number on it. This is very expensive, and we know it’s going to be very expensive.”

While Soules doesn’t expect the bill to pass, he says it’s already doing its job by starting the conversation.

“The reason for the bill is a message bill, so I will probably tell the chair of the transportation and business committee, let me present, but then I will pull that bill without actually going and sitting in finance, but it gives us a starting point,” Soules said.

Through his travels, Soules said you can find high-speed rails around the world – some going up to 220 miles an hour, dramatically cutting down travel times between major cities.

But you won’t find those trains in the U.S. and Soules wants to change that.

“This really needs to connect to other areas and the reason to go from Denver to Chihuahua is those are large metropolitan areas, and the idea is to link people to transportation in large metro areas so we can share in the economic growth and development that would bring,” Soules said.

But what do our neighboring states think of trains like this? Up north, there is some movement for high-speed rail. 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 trying to get high-speed rail between Dallas and Houston, but that project has been bogged down by land acquisitions. But there are no plans further west.

In 2009, there was some discussion of a high-speed rail route from Denver to Albuquerque, and to El Paso. Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico tried to get a feasibility study done by the feds, but nothing ever happened.

Amtrak also has plans for developing this route, but that would not involve high-speed trains.