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Counties of interest, part six: Central Texas

Part 1 – Counties around Harris
Part 2 – Counties around Dallas/Tarrant
Part 3 – Counties around Travis
Part 4 – Counties around Bexar
Part 5 – East Texas

We move on now to counties in Central Texas, which for these purposes will include a number of places along I-35, but also a couple of places that aren’t East Texas or West Texas. Try not to take these designations too seriously and just go with it.


County       Romney    Obama    Trump  Clinton    Trump    Biden    Shift
=========================================================================
Bell         49,574   35,512   51,998   37,801   67,113   56,032    2,981
Brazos       37,209   17,477   38,738   23,121   47,436   35,242    7,538
Coryell      11,220    5,158   12,225    5,064   15,397    7,542   -1,793
Grayson      30,936   10,670   35,325   10,301   43,776   14,223   -9,287
Hood         18,409    3,843   21,382    4,008   26,243    5,605   -6,072
McLennan     47,903   25,694   48,260   27,063   59,432   36,550     -673
Nueces       48,966   45,772   50,766   49,198   64,467   60,749     -524
Victoria     19,692    8,802   21,275    8,866   23,244   10,271   -2,083

There’s some clear good news here. Bell County, home of Killeen, Temple, and Belton, is part of that I-35 Corridor success story. Brazos County isn’t on I-35, but it’s an even bigger mover. Bell is 21.5% Black and has been the center of a deep-cut Dem opportunity district for some time – there were a couple of maps drawn in 2011 that would have created a Democratic State Rep district, and the current HD54 has been a potential target for a couple of cycles. Brazos, home of Bryan and College Station, was more of a surprise to me and has gone from being a fairly deep red county to a moderately purple one. I’m guessing the presence of Texas A&M is the driver of that, but I’m guessing.

McLennan County is Waco, and while it looks to have more or less held steady since 2012, it had improved in 2016 and then fell back in 2020, which is not a good sign. You know how I feel about building up Dem infrastructure in cities, including and especially the medium and smaller cities that have not yet been a key component of the resurgence. Coryell is next door and moving a little farther in the wrong direction.

The tough nuts to crack here are Grayson (home of Sherman) and Hood (home of Granbury). Both are on the outskirts of the Metroplex, with Grayson north of Collin and Denton, and Hood south and west of Parker and Johnson. They’re not close enough to the blue parts of the Metroplex to benefit from spillover. I don’t have an answer here, just noting the problem.

Nueces County is of course Corpus Christi, and it’s been more or less what it is for some time. Like McLennan, it moved towards blue in 2016, then slid back in 2020. As with McLennan, we need to figure that out and get it back on track. I included Victoria County in this collection mostly because it’s a population center and it’s a geographic fit, but it’s kind of an island, its own MSA on the way from Houston to Corpus.

High speed rail line route finalist chosen

Here’d where the Texas Central rail route will be, modulo some possible final tweaks and any further political obstacles.

Federal officials narrowed the possible paths for a Dallas-Houston bullet train down to one likely route Friday, providing an unknown number of rural Texans the most definitive answer so far as to whether their land will be in the path of the controversial project.

Much of the planned route had already been largely solidified. But documents released Friday by the Federal Railroad Administration filled in the rest of the gaps, favoring a more westerly route that runs through Navarro, Freestone, Leon, Madison and Limestone counties. Another potential route that was dropped from consideration would have avoided Limestone County.

[…]

The release of the draft Friday marked a major step toward getting federal clearance for the project. While it provides a clearer picture of the expected route, the path could slightly change in some areas as development and federal oversight continues.

The study also provided new details about stations planned in Grimes County and Houston. The Grimes County station is planned for State Highway 30 between Huntsville and College Station. There are three potential Houston station locations: land where Northwest Mall currently sits, an industrial area across from that shopping center and an industrial area closer to the nearby Northwest Transit Center.

The planned Dallas station remains just south of downtown.

The report is here. The original report, which listed six possible routes, came out two years ago – the environmental review process is not intended to be quick, but to be thorough. The station in Grimes County is intended to serve the Bryan/College Station area; the Texas Central summary of the report notes that “direct shuttle service to Texas A&M University” will be included, so you Aggie fans might make note of that. What I notice is that the route avoids Montgomery County, where a lot of the opposition to the line was based. Maybe some of those folks will lose interest now that they’re not in consideration any more. Grimes County, where the midpoint station will be located, is also a hotbed of resistance to TCR; Ben Leman, chair of Texans Against High-Speed Rail, just stepped down as Grimes County Judge to run for the Lege. If all goes well for TCR, they’ll have construction going before the next Lege gavels in.

Anyway. This is a big step forward for Texas Central. There’s still a 60-day public feedback period, and then the final route will be determined. Both DART and Metro will need to make some decisions about how they will connect to the terminals, and the Houston end has to be chosen. But we’re getting close. With a bit of luck, by this time next year we’ll have had a groundbreaking. I’m looking forward to it. The DMN has more.

The economic impact of the high speed rail line

It could be a lot, if one study is to be believed.

An analysis of a planned high-speed line between Houston and Dallas shows the $10 billion-plus project will have an economic impact roughly three times its expected price tag, though critics contend that estimate ignores many costs rural residents will pay, if the line is ever built.

The economic impact report, commissioned by the firm planning a high-speed train between Houston and Dallas, estimates the 240-mile line would have a $36.3 billion impact on Texas over the next 25 years. The analysis, by Allen-based Insight Research Corp., was commissioned by Texas Central Partners, which summarized its findings on Thursday.

Texas Central CEO Tim Keith said the economic analysis – one of many the company is preparing as part of its federal review and the process of selling communities on the line – supports the benefits the company has claimed.

“The overall message here is we are on a path to keep our development pace moving quickly,” Keith said.

The company plans to begin construction in 2017, and start ferrying passengers in 2021. Officials on Thursday also confirmed they plan a stop between the two sprawling metro areas aimed at potential Bryan-College Station riders. That station would be located in Grimes County, one of the counties where the bullet train has faced the stiffest opposition.

[…]

“One of the questions that’s been asked is ‘what does this do for me?” Keith said, noting the push back the project has received.

Grimes County, for example, would receive an estimated $50 million – five times the county’s fiscal 2016 property tax collections – while the local school district would receive more. Across Texas, the project would create about $3.1 billion in tax revenue between now and 2040, including $2.5 billion directly from construction of the line.

What’s unclear is whether those communities consider any economic gain something to celebrate.

“Their private property rights are not for sale,” said Kyle Workman, president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail, which formed to oppose the current plan. “That is not something they look forward to. If they wanted a lot of development they would move to Houston.”

Workman said the economic impact included many details officials already have hinted at. He called some of the pronouncements speculative until the public had a chance to examine the complete economic analysis.

“Their whole economic analysis is based on a successful project,” he said, noting success is not assured with airline travel popular between the metro areas and people likely preferring to drive.

Well, sure, I mean, who studies the potential impact of a failed project? It’s called “potential impact” precisely because you’re assuming it will be successful, not because you know it will be. You can find the study and the associated press release from Texas Central here. Of interest to me is that there will be a station added in Grimes County, home of some fierce opposition as well as proximity to Bryan/College Station. Will that dampen any of the opposition? Will the addition of an in-between station change anything about the viability of the route? In an alternate universe, we could be talking about a station in The Woodlands, which might have been more appealing to Texas Central and its potential riders. I look forward to seeing what comes next. The Trib, the Highwayman, and Dallas Transportation have more.

Texas Monthly on Abby Johnson

You may recall the story of Abby Johnson, the former employee at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan that quit her job and joined up with a local anti-choice group. She’s been on TV quite a bit telling a story of how she had a “conversion experience” after observing an ultrasound abortion. Turns out some details of her story don’t stand up to scrutiny, as Nate Blakeslee documents at Texas Monthly. Hard to believe, I know. It’s a good read, so go check it out. Thanks to ‘stina, who has more, for the link.

UPDATE: Teddy Wilson of Left Of College Station is a volunteer at this clinic and wrote about Johnson and her “conversion” at the time here and here.