On I-35, a Freight-Only Monorail Could Soon Take Root

The drive south down Interstate 35 isn't a particularly pleasant one, but there soon there may be something to distract you, namely a 243-mile elevated rail line dedicated to shipping freight.

The Texas Department of Transportation is close to reaching a deal to lease highway right-of-way to Freight Shuttle International, a private company that hopes to build the $2.5 billion rail line within six years.

"We think it's happening at just the right time in our country," Stephen Roop, an assistant director at Texas A&M University's Texas Transportation Institute and co-founder of Freigh Shuttle International, told the Star-Telegram. "It can operate in the airspace of a highway median."

The concept is simple, basically a two-way electric-powered monorail that carries cargo containers at a max speed of 60 miles per hour to terminals where they are loaded onto trucks. The result is an efficient method of shipping freight that proponents say cuts costs by 25 percent, reduced emissions, and fewer humongous trucks hurtling down the highway.

There are drawbacks, as was noted during a presentation Friday to the North Central Texas Council of Governments. For one, such a system by definition doesn't carry passengers. There are worries as well that 60 miles per hour might be too slow and that bottlenecks could slow things down. Also, it stops in Waxahachie, though Freight Shuttle hopes to eventually expand the system to DFW and on another couple thousand miles of highway in the state.

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