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Sunday, July 23, 2017

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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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  • Opa

    Its not a matter of if the project fails, that is a design factor for it to fail. NO mass transit project, planned or in operation, pays for itself.

    • quikmantx

      That’s very false. It’s not hard to look one up on any search engine. Hong Kong MTR is one of the most profitable in the world. There are many bus lines that operate for-profit (e.g., Greyhound, Megabus, etc.). Airline companies transport mass amounts of people.

      In fact, private mass transit systems used to be the primary method for intra-city and inter-city transportation until federal/state/local governments started colluding with the auto/oil-dependent industries. The government purposely subsidizes car culture by often building road infrastructure with normally no direct usage fees (only indirect ones), maintaining low gasoline prices (via wars, and other methods), building/development/planning codes, and the list goes on and on.

      Do roads always generate monetary profits? Should mass transit need to generate monetary profits when society profits from less pollution, roadway congestion, fuel usage, etc.?

      • Opa

        Dig a little deeper than what you see on the surface. Follow the money and you will eventually find a subsidy of some sort making up the difference in cost vs revenue.

        If this project is so squeaky clean, why the need to try and assert imminent domain over that which they can’t acquire through a normal buyer-seller agreement? And having been shut down locally (Texas Legislature), why the need to try and involve the federal DOT?

        The Trans-Texas-Corridor project attempted to use the same tactics and was finally shut down. These are the same people trying a different angle to achieve the same purpose, personal profits at the expense of the taxpayer.

  • quikmantx

    Texans Against High-Speed Rail sounds like a collision of automobile-dependent industries and entities that don’t want to change the status quo. I don’t blame them for wanting to protect the money they generate from people using automobiles. Small towns that depend on motorists stopping by don’t see any benefit from the bullet train. They’ll do what they need to do to get politicians and locals on board to stop it. The problem with progress is when people stand to lose from it.

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