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Friday, September 21, 2018

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Legislation proposed to halt Houston-Dallas bullet train


In the latest addition to the mounting controversy surrounding Texas Central’s proposed Houston-Dallas high-speed rail, more than 20 pieces of state legislation have been filed to halt the project.

In January, the Houston-Dallas bullet train received attention for being listed among President Donald Trump’s top infrastructure priorities. If successful, the rail would connect Texas’s two largest metropolitan areas via a 90-minute commute, operating at speeds up to 205 mph.

The future of the bullet train hinges on the private company’s ability to prove they have eminent domain, which would allow them to confiscate private land for public use, according to coverage by The Texas Tribune. The bills, authored by 10 different lawmakers, are expected to force Texas Central to verify their eminent domain claim.

“The project is dead in the water without a fix,” said Grimes County Judge Ben Leman, chairman of Texans Against High-Speed Rail. Leman also heads the Commissioner’s Court that approved a new requirement that forces rails crossing multiple counties to have a permit, according to The Texas Tribune.

In order to obtain this permit, Texas Central would need evidence of secured eminent domain.

“They have zero proof that they have eminent domain,” Leman said, according to The Texas Tribune. “They have to get a fix for that if this project will move forward.”

State Rep. John Wray, who authored six of the opposing bills, questioned how Texas Central could justify calling itself a railroad without currently operating any rails, according to The Texas Tribune.

“That’s not enough to say they’re entitled to eminent domain authority to take away people’s property,” Wray said.

The statute Texas Central is currently using as justification restricts its application to only an operating railroad. However, according to The Texas Tribune, the company does have two operations registered as railroads in the state.

Regardless, Texas Central President Tim Keith said that efforts are first being made to obtain the land without the needing to use eminent domain, according to The Texas Tribune.

“We’re very conscious of our partners in the community and being very direct with them and being open,” Keith said.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas Central claimed to have already secured purchase agreements with nearly a third of the affected landowners earlier this month.

Those opposed to the bullet train have also voiced skepticism about Texas Central’s claim that the $12 billion needed for its construction will not come from the public, according to the Dallas Morning News. To the contrary, Texas Central expects the rail will be an economic success, increasing tax revenue in surrounding areas in the process.

“I still have doubts about whether a high-speed rail project makes sense for Texas,” said Texas Sen. Brandon Creighton, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Taxpayers should not be expected to pay the bill if the project fails.”

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