Seems obvious, but these things are more complicated than you’d think.
Planners of a Houston-to-Dallas bullet train scored a victory in Corpus Christi Thursday when a state appeals court said the company — despite not operating yet — is a railroad in the eyes of the law.
“This decision confirms our status as an operating railroad and allows us to continue moving forward with our permitting process and all of our other design, engineering and land acquisition efforts,” Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar said in a statement.
Writing for the 13th Texas Court of Appeals, Judge Nora Longoria said a Leon County judge who sided with landowners erred when he said the lack of current operations or equipment meant Texas Central was not a railroad, and therefore had no claim to survey land or acquire it through eminent domain. Leon County landowners Jim and Barbara Miles sued Texas Central in early 2017, claiming the company had no authority to survey their land, after they refused to grant the company’s hired surveyors access.
In their challenge, lawyers for the Miles’ argued since Texas Central is not operating as a railroad and currently owns no trains, it cannot claim to be railroad under Texas law to take land. The company, created in 2012 specifically to build a high-speed rail line from Houston to Dallas, said owning and operating trains was not necessary, noting it still is designing and developing its 240-mile route.
Aguilar and others said Texas Central remains ready for federal approvals of the project’s safety and engineering, expected later this year.
“Today’s ruling supports the enormous amount of work Texas Central has done to date,” he said.
See here for the background. As the story notes, this is a fight over whether or not Texas Central can use eminent domain to acquire right of way; there have been various attempts to pass a law along these lines in the Lege without success. If this ruling stands, that’s one less obstacle for Texas Central, which is facing other attacks related to the current economic situation. The plaintiffs will appeal to the Supreme Court, so this is not over yet. For now at least, Texas Central is officially a railroad.