Abbott says something about high speed rail

Something vague, and a bit confusing.


Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday expressed caution about high-speed rail in Texas, warning that any investment in transportation must not be a “money-losing proposition.”

It was one of several notable topics that came up during a wide-ranging Q-and-A with the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, where Abbott also vouched for the continuation of the Texas Enterprise Fund and provided a brief preview of the next legislative session.


Abbott had previously expressed hesitation about high-speed rail, a perennial flashpoint in Texas that sparks debate over how to pay for it and its impact on property rights. He was again somewhat skeptical-sounding Thursday at the luncheon for the Chamber of Commerce, which supports high-speed rail. Waco is along a potential route being studied for a high-speed rail alternative to Interstate 35 that would go from Oklahoma City to Laredo.

“It is important to be able to invest in anything that works, but when you invest, you don’t want to lose money,” Abbott said, bringing up a high-speed rail project in California that ended up costing much more than originally projected. “You’ve got to proceed with caution.”

Abbott instead pointed to the freight shuttle system recently unveiled at Texas A&M University, which would move containers on elevated highways using automated transporters. Abbott noted that the system does not rely on taxpayer dollars and would “not involve taking anyone’s property.”

“You have to look at certain issues so that it works for all the different pieces of all the different constituencies, but most importantly look at at the bottom for the taxpayers in Texas, which is the thing that we have to be the greatest guardian of,” Abbott said.

At first reading, I thought Abbott was speaking of high-speed rail in general, including the Texas Central Railway. That didn’t make much sense, since they’re a private company, and what does he care if they wind up making money or not? He still might have had them in mind when he said this, but at this point I think he was just referring to the Oklahoma/Texas line, which is a TxDOT project. Too bad, because it would be nice to hear what he thinks about Texas Central, given the target it has on its back in the 2017 Legislature. Will he support or undermine the efforts to kill it? Your guess is as good as mine at this point.

As for this project, I think talk about the California HSR experience is premature. I suspect the escalating cost estimates for the California line – which is still in the conceptual stage – have as much to do with the price of real estate as anything else. I’m pretty sure that would be less of an issue with this proposal, but if Abbott wanted to know more about that, he could ask TxDOT to provide him with some answers. And sure, HSR isn’t cheap, but then neither is our road infrastructure cheap to operate, maintain, and especially expand. Building highways also involves a lot of eminent domain, though for some reason the uproar over that is always more muted. You tell me what the difference is, I have no idea.

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One Response to Abbott says something about high speed rail

  1. Jules says:

    A few reasons the uproar for eminent domain in this case is worse than for highways (if it is, in First Ward we fight highways taking our neighborhood too – not sure if you would roll over for both or not. My best (and not nicest guess) is that you think your neighborhood is too special to fall victim to eminent domain for either HSR or highways and have zero sympathy for those that do)).

    1) it’s for private gain, not for public use
    2) in rural areas, having your property bisected by a highway gives you highway frontage and your land may have more use (value). The train bisects your property and the value of the remaining property only goes down.
    3) people in between the ends of the highway may actually get use of the highway. Not so with the train
    4) the train is an enormous scam – a long con. Example – Jack Matthews’s company sold the land to Texas Central for the Dallas station. Jack Matthews’s company will be the developer of the Dallas station. Jack Matthews is one of the known “investors” of Texas Central. The investors don’t plan to make money from the farebox. Also a reason the lege and Abbott should be concerned if HSR makes money or not – it is just a scam?

    Here’s a link to an article about a toll road – I think this project has many similar aspects to the proposed Dallas-Houston HSR including TxDOT keeping usage (ridership) and other project details secret to protect company data.

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