Still waiting to see if an anti-Texas Central bill passes

There’s still time, and anything can happen in the Lege, but so far it’s looking like Texas Central will make it through more or less unscathed.

High-speed rail developers have been eyeing a 240-mile stretch of mostly rural land sandwiched between the urban hubs of Dallas and Houston for years. Their goal: buy it up and build America’s first bullet train.

But several rural landowners don’t plan on giving up their private property without a fight. And their supporters in the Legislature have filed so many bills that could disrupt Texas Central Partners LLC’s plans that there’s an entire subcommittee tackling the ongoing battle over the multibillion dollar project.

“We know why all the bills before this subcommittee were filed,” said W. Brad Anderson, an eminent domain attorney working for Texas Central. “The underlying purpose of those bills is to stop the high-speed rail.”

Texas Central is used to such legislative opposition. For the past two sessions, opponents have filed bills aimed at crippling or killing the high-speed rail project, but it’s remained relatively unscathed. This year, there are more bills than ever before, according to grassroots group Texans Against High-Speed Rail president and chairman Kyle Workman.


“The majority of all rail bills, if not all, are anti-rail,” said state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who chairs the House Transportation Committee and created the new high-speed rail subcommittee.

Many of the bills follow a similar pattern: they would require a high-speed rail developer to raise money needed for construction, acquire federal permits, or secure necessary land before surveying or building any part of the line. And in some cases, lawmakers don’t want developers to be able to collaborate with the state on how to access rights-of-way around highways.

At a hearing last week, Texas Central representatives said the bills so far unfairly target the project and impose unfair requirements that other similar projects, like natural gas pipelines, don’t have.

But Kyle Workman said in an interview with The Tribune that the package of bills doesn’t target Texas Central. Rather, he says regulations are necessary for the new high-speed rail industry so private property rights and government resources are protected if a company can’t follow through on a project due to, for example, lack of funding or inability to get permits.

“If I was a power line company and I was going to run a brand spankin’ new power line system that had never been done before….We’d have to get that approved first,” he said.


Dallas and Houston city representatives criticized the flurry of legislative moves as potentially significant obstacles to their cities’ growth.

Molly Carroll, executive project manager for the high-speed rail project with the City of Dallas, said the bullet train could revitalize an “underserved” area of the city just south of downtown — fostering an estimated 500 jobs and 20 million square feet of new development valued at $8 billion.

“The high-speed rail project is a catalyst project the city has needed to kickstart the rebuilding in this part of our city,” she said. “This is a once-in-a-generation project and opportunity that the city of Dallas and the great state of Texas cannot afford to miss.”

Advocates and legislators on both sides say it’s too soon to know the future of high-speed rail reforms this session – but Workman said, even without a legislative victory, the session would still be a success.

“Are we going to get all these bills passed? No…We might not get any passed, but we’re raising awareness on the issue,” he said. “Texas Central has a lot of muscle, but we’re staying after them.”

See here for the previous update. I mean, maybe I’m reading too much into what Kyle Workman is saying, but that sure sounds like lowering expectations to me. The basic equation here is that there are more urban and urban-area legislators than there are rural legislators. The rurals need to get a lot of support from their colleagues in other parts of the state, including urban areas, in order to have sufficient numbers to pass a bill. For the most part, they have not been able to do that. I’m hoping that continues.

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7 Responses to Still waiting to see if an anti-Texas Central bill passes

  1. David Fagan says:

    Is this an “anti-Texas central bill” or a “pro property rights” bill? Texans are all about property rights and people forced to give up property shouldn’t be painted as being negative, or anti-anything. Leaders run on a platform of property rights all the time, now it’s time to step up. If nothing else, please omit the phrase “fair market value” from any comments.

  2. Jules says:

    Texas Central does not have the power of eminent domain or a single permit to build a railroad. I hope that the lege does pass bills prohibiting the start of any construction until Texas Central has all permits and eminent domain.

    Also, Texas Central should not be able to build over county roads without coordination and permission from said counties. A high speed rail line that passes through a county will forever change how a county can build or expand roads that cross that line.

    It does not make sense for TxDOT to expend efforts to build the HSR until it has all permits, eminent domain power and money to build the line.

    It’s unfortunate that Texas Central has been able to spend a year and a half spouting “facts” from the flawed DEIS to Texas lawmakers (like that 60 – 99% of car travelers will switch to hsr and remove 14,630 cars per day from I45 which is ridiculous). This figure is demonstrably wrong and shame on the FRA for not rescinding the DEIS.

  3. Jules says:

    The Leon county lawsuit that says Texas Central is not a railroad and not an interurban electric railway was finalized and Texas Central must pay the Miles family’s attorney fees.

  4. C.L. says:

    Here’s why, I suspect, TX lawmakers are hyperconcerned about property rights and advanced transportation technology – all those foreigners involved in HSR and the fact that THEIR fingers aren’t in the pie:

    “Texas Central has said that it plans to spend more than $15 billion to build and run its planned 240-mile route from Houston to Dallas, in partnership with Central Japan Railway, which will help implement the shinkansen technology. Construction won’t begin until funding in full has been raised among investors, the firm promises (one bill moving through the Texas legislature would codify that promise in law). Citigroup and Mitsubishi are advising its intricate financing structure, and Renfe, the Spanish rail operator, has signed on to run the trains. Texas Central company might apply for federal loans, but the project won’t be funded by state or federal grants.”

  5. Jules says:

    That and it’s doomed to fail. It won’t get the ridership to cover operations, much less service debt.

  6. C.L. says:

    The State of Texas allows for the construction of toll roads within their right of ways and easements all over the place, even allowed for the construction of 130 from the SATX area up to Georgetown… which certainly crisscrossed private lands up one side and down the other. What was the cost of that ? $5-6B ? And because the developers went belly up, a State Rep proposes the State buy it and open it up toll-free ?

    “In 2013, House Bill 3682 was filed by state Representative Paul Workman (Republican) with the goal of removing the tolls on SH 130 and re-designating the highway as an Interstate. The cost was estimated at $3 billion. $1.5 billion would come from the state’s rainy day fund, with an equal amount being funded from federal sources.”

  7. Jules says:

    Yep, SH 130 is a good reason to turn down the hsr. Plus the fact that the hsr will be a 240 mile long wall dividing land and counties. Texas Central says it will be 60% elevated so 40% on a berm. They show pics with cows frolicking under the line, but there will also be access roads of more than 100 miles constructed alongside. Cows plus roads equal fences and no free access to the other side.

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