Lawyers for a proposed high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas withdrew their request for entry to a local landowner’s property, after opponents and the landowner opposed it in front of a Harris County judge, according to opponents of the project.
“It is a great day for the vindication of landowner rights,” lawyer Blake Beckham of Dallas said.
In a statement, Texas Central confirmed the hearing, but was less decisive about its significance.
“No ruling was issued.,” the company said. “The parties agreed to come back to the court as soon as possible to have another hearing.”
Beckham represented Calvin House, owner of 440 acres in northwestern Harris County. Texas Central, planners of the high-speed rail line, want access to House’s property as they determine the best route for the train line. In its filings, the company cited its power of eminent domain as a railroad.
Opponents, however, argued the company is not a railroad because it is neither operating a rail system, nor does it own any tracks or trains.
As part of their filing, Beckham listed the dictionary definitions for “railroad” and “operating” among the exhibit he planned to enter. Texas Central’s lawyers opposed those exhibits in a filing Thursday.
Beckham called the hearing significant in a video statement released by Texans Against High-Speed Rail, a group formed to oppose Texas Central’s plans.
“This was the first case where this issue was to be decided,” Beckham said. “We had a complete victory.”
Perhaps, but I doubt any precedents were set since there was no decision rendered. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from this case since the details about it are so sparse, but even if I did know more I’d still rank it no higher than third on the list of existential threats that Texas Central faces, well behind the forthcoming AG opinion on whether it is a “railroad” for the purposes of using eminent domain, and whatever mischief the Legislature will cook up in the next session. On that score, Rep. Ron Simmons (R, Carrolton), who serves as the Chair of the Transportation Subcommittee on Long-term Infrastructure Planning, predicts TCR will survive. I don’t know that I would take that bet, but Rep. Simmons (whose district is in the Dallas suburbs) is in a better position than I to judge.