SAN ANTONIO -

The idea of a high-speed rail line possibly connecting San Antonio and Laredo with Monterrey, Mexico, is generating excitement on both sides of the border, according to Rep. Henry Cuellar.

Cuellar, who represents the 28th Congressional district, said, “I think it looks very, very good at this time. Very promising.”

He said he’s already spoken to Mexican President Ernesto Pena Nieto, and at the request of the governor of the state of Nuevo Leon, is helping to arrange a meeting with Gov. Rick Perry.

Cuellar said the U.S. leg of the project will be determined after a feasibility study by the Texas Department of Transportation due out next year.

He said TexDOT was “so surprised that the Mexicans are so way ahead.”

He said Mexico already has the right-of-way, as well as the only railroad presidential permit from Monterrey to Colombia on the Mexican side, site of the Colombia-Solidarity International Bridge outside Laredo.

Miranda Margowsky, spokeswoman for Cuellar, said once the route is decided on the U.S. side, “They will start negotiating any right-of-way and environmental issues with the rail companies.”

“We’re talking six years, if everything goes fine,” Cuellar said.

Cuellar said the cost has yet to be determined for the Texas portion, but he is hoping for federal, state, local and private sector funding.

He said it would be a win-win-win for all three cities in terms of tourism and business, further strengthening their existing ties.

He said the U.S. government is trying to cut wait times by using the current model for rail traffic at the Canadian border.

“With customs pre-clearance, they can go from Monterrey to San Antonio in a little over two hours, which is just incredible,” Cuellar said.

Having just been on a 14-hour bus ride from San Luis Potosi to San Antonio, Lilia Reyna, of Illinois, said as it is now, “Sometimes it’s like four to five hours just to cross the border.”

“Sometimes even more,” said her husband, Jose. “It seems like we waited more time waiting to cross than we did traveling.”

They also said high-speed rail would be a safer alternative given the risks of traveling in northern Mexico, where even buses can be hijacked and robbed on the road.

Lilia Reyna said, “Oh, yes, people don’t like to drive anymore.”

Her husband also said that a high speed rail line is only a matter of time.

He said, “I think it would be great for both the U.S. and Mexico.”

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.