Or at least, they declined the opportunity to say otherwise.
Texas Central Railroad, according to the Texas Supreme Court, is a railroad, ending a five-year legal battle over the controversial high-speed rail company’s right to use state eminent domain laws.
The ruling, unless a federal court intervenes or stops the company in another way, clears the path for backers of the Houston-to-Dallas bullet train to acquire land over the objections of landowners unwilling to sell.
The Supreme Court on Friday declined to review the Texas 13th Court of Appeals ruling last year that upheld Texas Central’s right to use state eminent domain laws.
“The court’s denial of review should put an end to over five years of contentious litigation and clear the path for Texas Central to bring the high-speed train to Texas,” Texas Central said in a statement.
At issue in the case, brought by Leon County landowners Jim and Barbara Miles, was whether Texas Central was classified as a railroad by state law. Despite claiming to be a railroad, Miles’ lawyers noted the company owns no trains, has no track and does not operate any service. Texas Central remains, after more than nine years, still in the planning stages, and continues to face stiff opposition from rural residents.
Being considered a railroad is important because only a railroad has a right to acquire property under eminent domain for a private purpose. Otherwise landowners simply could refuse to sell. Now, Texas Central must offer property owners fair market value, but can go to court to condemn land.
See here and here for the background. With the manufacturing contract, the final federal environmental approvals, surviving the legislative session, and now this, it’s been a few good months for Texas Central. Opponents still have some arrows in their quiver – they are challenging the environmental approvals, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Greg Abbott is asked to add consideration of eminent domain to a special session agenda – but the path forward is a lot clearer for them now than it was a year ago. Once they start actually laying track – and I know I’ve said this before, but it’s still true – they will be hard to stop.