Life cycle environmental impact of a high-speed rail system in the Houston-Dallas I-45 corridor


The Houston-Dallas (I-45) corridor is the busiest route among 18 traffic corridors in Texas, USA. The expected population growth and the surge in passenger mobility may result in a significant impact on the regional environment. This study uses a life cycle framework to predict and evaluate the net changes of environmental impact associated with the potential development of a high-speed rail (HSR) System along the I-45 corridor through its life cycle. The environmental impact is estimated in terms of CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per vehicle/passenger-kilometers traveled (V/PKT) using life cycle assessment. The analyses are performed referring to the Ecoinvent 3.4 inventory database through the phases: material extraction and processing, infrastructure construction, vehicle manufacturing, system operation, and end of life. The environmental benefit is evaluated by comparing the potential development of the HSR system with those of the existing transportation systems. The vehicle component, especially operation and maintenance of vehicles, is the primary contributor to the total global warming potential with about 93% of the life cycle GHG emissions. For the infrastructure component, 56.76% of GHG emissions result from the material extraction and processing phase (23.75 kgCO2eq/VKT). Various life cycle emissions of HSR except PM are significantly lower than for passenger cars.

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Data availability

Data is presented in the tables and figures in the paper; some intermediate data generated from the calculations are available upon request.


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This work is funded through a grant from the Transportation Consortium of South Central States (Tran-SET), a USDOT funded University Transportation Center, Award # 18PPPVU01. Partial support was also received from NSF CREST Center for Energy & Environmental Sustainability at Prairie View A&M University, NSF Award # 1036593.


Grant from the Transportation Consortium of South Central States (Tran-SET), a USDOT funded University Transportation Center, Award # 18PPPVU01. Partial support received from NSF CREST Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability at Prairie View A&M University, NSF Award # 1036593.

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Correspondence to Raghava R. Kommalapati.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest. The sponsors had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, and in the decision to publish the results.

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See Fig. 5 and Table 6.

Fig. 5

The planned high-speed railway between Houston and Dallas

Table 6 Scenarios of Ecoinvent 3.4 electricity mix and the 2017 Texas Mix

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Chipindula, J., Du, H., Botlaguduru, V.S.V. et al. Life cycle environmental impact of a high-speed rail system in the Houston-Dallas I-45 corridor. Public Transp (2021).

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  • High-speed rail
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Environmental impact
  • GHG emissions
  • Transportation mode