Thirty-three East Texas officials sent a letter to the Japanese ambassador to the United States on Monday to express their opposition to a private Texas firm’s proposed high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston that has strong ties to a Japanese company.
The letter is the latest effort by opponents of Texas Central Partners’ multibillion-dollar project since the firm’s 2012 announcement of its plan to bring Japanese train operator JR Central’s bullet train technology to Texas. Under the agreement, JR Central would sell its Shinkansen trains to Texas Central and play an advisory role on the system’s operations. A Japanese-backed government fund has also invested $40 million in the project.
In the letter to Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, local officials argued that the bullet train would burden their communities without providing any benefits and called on Sasae to seek out a different market for the project. The signers of the letter include eleven Republican members of the Legislature: State Sens. Brian Birdwell of Granbury, Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham and Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, and State Reps. Trent Ashby of Lufkin, Cecil Bell of Magnolia, Byron Cook of Corsicana, Kyle Kacal of College Station, Will Metcalf of Conroe, John Raney of College Station, Leighton Schubert of Caldwell, and John Wray of Waxahachie. Other signers include several county judges, county commissioners and members of sub-regional planning commissions in the rural areas that would be most affected by the proposal.
“While we respect your country’s ambitious goal of exporting the Shinkansen technology, as residents and leaders in East Texas, we remain opposed to the HSR Project because it will cause irreparable harm to our communities,” the officials wrote.
Texans Against High Speed Rail, which spearheaded the letter, touted it as a reflection of “overwhelming local opposition” to the project.
“This project is not just an issue of unwarranted use of eminent domain but also one of eventual taxpayer subsidies that will impact all Texans,” said Kyle Workman, the group’s president. “Our officials understand the full magnitude of the damage that can be done because of this, and I applaud their fortitude in standing with and for the citizens they represent on this issue.”
Given that the partnership between Texas Central and JR Central is a private one that does not directly involve the ambassador, Texans Against High Speed Rail is primarily hoping that Sasae will help facilitate further discussion with all interested parties, according to Judge Ben Leman of Grimes County, one of the signers of the letter.
“We want Japanese officials to know first-hand directly from the elected officials of the state of Texas how we feel about this project,” Grimes said. “Because there are so many Japanese sources of the funding, we’re hoping that not only will the ambassador read it and engage in communication with us directly and the aspects of the Japanese government that we need to speak with, but also engage with the United States government as well.”
Okay then. I guess it’s unclear to me what the letter writers hope to accomplish with this. Do they think the ambassador will pick up the phone and call Texas Central and tell them “Hey, you guys may not be aware of this, but some folks don’t like your project”? Or maybe pick up the phone and have the same conversation with some of the actual or potential Japanese investors in Texas Central? Has any business venture in another country that was backed by US-based companies been affected by the penning of a letter to the US ambassador in said country? I really have no idea what, other than getting a story written in the Trib (for which I say, well done), this was supposed to do that a letter to the editor of one’s local newspaper wouldn’t have done. I suppose one must do something during the legislative off-season to keep the momentum. The Press has more.