In 1981, Texas approved the legislation calling for the creation of rural rail districts throughout the state. By March of 1999, 11 rural rail districts, consisting of over 50 Texas counties had been developed. Rail districts can be formed in Texas by any one or more consecutive counties.

Rural Rail Transportation Districts (RRTDs) in Texas are formed to prevent the loss of rural rail lines that have been abandoned by rail companies, or to maintain the former rail right-of-way for future transportation uses.

The original purpose of RRTDs was to preserve existing rural rail systems for agricultural and industrial shipping. More recently, economic development has become a second recognized purpose for RRTDs, some of which are forming with the intent to build new spur lines to accommodate new or expanding business opportunities in rural areas. At the time of this report, 16 RRTDs exist in the state of Texas.