Tags: Crystal Wright | Texas | bullet train | eminent domain

Texas Bullet Train Gets Kink In Its Tracks Over Eminent Domain

Image: Texas Bullet Train Gets Kink In Its Tracks Over Eminent Domain

By    |   Sunday, 28 Aug 2016 05:02 PM

Texas Central Railroad has been trying mightily to build a 240-mile high-speed train between Dallas and Houston. Desperate to build this train against fierce opposition from many Texans, Texas Central tried to circumvent the state’s eminent domain law to keep the project chugging along. The company which partnered with Central Japan Railway, a Japanese firm, applied to the federal Surface Transportation Board to be considered an interstate rail system.


The company made this sneaky move so it could indiscriminately seize the property of Texan landowners to build its bullet train. Texas Central boasts the project is privately funded and will cost over $10 billion to construct. But eminent domain is a subsidy, as Stanford University Economics Professor Alain Enthoven, who conducted a study of high-speed rail systems worldwide explained to me.

The non-profit group Texans Against High Speed Rail (TAHSR) submitted opposition statements to the Board signed by more than 3,000 Texans vowing to protect their land.

On July 18, the board put a kink in Texas Central’s tracks and ruled "that the proposed rail line, as described, does not require Board approval, as it would be constructed and operated entirely within the State of Texas and would not be part of the interstate rail network."

Essentially, the Board dismissed Texas Central’s request to be classified as an interstate rail line because it is a closed system operating only in the state of Texas; therefore, it doesn’t qualify for federal jurisdiction to pre-empt state law.

"Should Texas Central develop concrete plans that would make the Line part of the interstate rail network, such as an actual through ticketing arrangement with Amtrak or a shared station with an interstate passenger rail line, Texas Central could seek Board authority at that time," the board wrote.


But the board also rendered a blistering critique of Texas Central, calling its interest in exploring cooperative arrangements with Amtrak in the future "too speculative and undefined to make this intrastate line part of the interstate rail network based on the information in the petition."

"Texas Central has a huge mountain to climb and is a long way from building their high-speed rail," explained TAHSR President Kyle Workman.

"They don't have federal or local building permits, no completed environmental impact studies, no federal safety approval, and the proposed route is just that – proposed without a defined alignment connecting Dallas to Houston. On top of that, the company has raised less than 2 percent of the estimated $10 billion-$18 billion they need to build the train. Texas Central’s dream is far from reality,” Workman said.

What difference does this ruling make? This means that Texas Central is NOT exempt from local and state eminent domain laws and regulations. The company must now go back to Texas to get approval to build its high-speed rail. Texas Central has not established itself as a railroad with the legal right to eminent domain authority needed to build the train. Texas has strict eminent domain laws that protect property owners.

On August 9, 2016, Texas Central’s project lost even more steam. Grimes County, one of nine affected counties through which the rail system is to traverse, voted to pass a resolution "to establish a policy to prohibit, restrict, and/or regulate crossings of County rights of way by any high-speed rail lines or facilities." The resolution requires "a permit to be approved by Commissioners Court before construction can begin on any high-speed rail project where it crosses a county road."

Essentially, Grimes County has made it clear that no high-speed rail construction will occur without county approval and regulation. Other counties are likely to follow Grimes County’s lead, hobbling the project.

Comprised of private and business property owners and elected officials, TAHSR was formed to "protect private property rights, maintain efficient modes of transportation, and prevent the wasteful use of taxpayer dollars or public subsidies for high-speed rail transportation."

Many Texans fear that taxpayers ultimately will subsidize the project if it is allowed to progress. And they have good reason to be dubious. According to a study conducted by the Spanish firm Ferrovial of 111 high-speed systems worldwide, only three were profitable. These are the Tokyo-Osaka line, the Paris-Lyon line and Beijing-to-Shanghai.

"The two issues that most anger Texans opposed to this project are the inevitable taxpayer subsidy and the abuse of eminent domain by a 'private' company. Texas Central hasn't figured out the secret formula to make this high-speed rail successful in Texas when all but two or three high speed lines worldwide are heavily subsidized," said Workman.

"Moreover, there is no question that using eminent domain, or the power of the government to condemn land, is by definition a government subsidy. We believe that a private company using the threat of eminent domain, without any clear legal authority, demanding private landowners turn over property, which for some has been in their family for over 150 years, is completely unacceptable," Workman added.

Texas Central has an ambitious plan to operate up to 34 daily trains between Dallas and Houston every half hour during peak travel time. But it looks like the company is having trouble railroading its way through Texas first.

Crystal Wright is editor of the blog Conservative Black Chick and author of "Con Job: How Democrats Gave Us Crime, Sanctuary Cities, Abortion Profiteering, and Racial Division."

 

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Texas Central Railroad has been trying mightily to build a 240-mile high-speed train between Dallas and Houston. Desperate to build this train against fierce opposition from many Texans, Texas Central tried to circumvent the state's eminent domain law to keep the project...
Crystal Wright, Texas, bullet train, eminent domain
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2016-02-28
Sunday, 28 Aug 2016 05:02 PM
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