County suspends Lone Star Rail funding

The fate of the Lone Star Rail District (LSRD) has yet to be decided by Central Texas officials and some are beginning to explore other options. 

Hays County Commissioners voted to suspend their membership with LSRD March 22 following Union Pacific’s (UP) exit from the future plans. LSRD has been conducting environmental studies on the UP rail line, but with UP’s exit, the plans are at a standstill. 

“Even though we have temporarily pulled our funding to LSRD, I believe it is incumbent of the county to continue exploring all modes of transportation, and that includes rail,” Debbie Ingalsbe, Hays County Commissioner Pct. 1, said. 

Ingalsbe said as the county considers future participation in rail, which she believes will happen, it may be in a different form as it relates to the governance of the agency. 

Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said that although the city did not have the population needed to become a member of LSRD, he’s been a proponent of the plans from the beginning. However, he said it might be time to consider other options. 

“At this point with all of the news that has come out, with UP exiting for example, and all of the money that has been spent and you weigh that against the progress of the plans, it may not be the most viable option anymore,” Ruge said. 

Buda had been considering requesting the county to sponsor them to acquire a membership with LSRD, but it’s something it has “taken off the table for now,” Ruge said.  

Members of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) will take a vote in August to determine if the environmental study should continue. 

If CAMPO votes in August, either way the vote goes, commissioners will have to figure out the best plan of action for the county moving forward, Ingalsbe said. 

“The court will have to make that final determination but, if that were to occur, I perceive the court will weigh its options and continue regional discussion on the best path forward regarding the implementation of rail services,” Ingalsbe said. 

Ingalsbe said she is personally not giving up on rail transportation options for Hays County. 

Ruge said he knows CAMPO and the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization have been trying to team up and take over this project.

Ingalsbe said it is her understanding the Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Austin and San Antonio are discussing their options, as are other cities along the Interstate 35 corridor. 

Decisions should be coming soon from different entities in Central Texas on what, if any, their participation will be on the current structure of LSRD, Ingalsbe said.

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