Update on Texas High Speed Rail | Citizens Against Government Waste

Update on Texas High Speed Rail

The WasteWatcher

The legislative session in Texas ends in less than two weeks, so the legislature has little time left to address the legal ambiguity surrounding the claim by the private company Texas Central Partners, LLC that it has the authority to use imminent domain to seize the land it needs to build a planned high-speed rail project from Dallas to Houston.

Some landowners have come out against the project and have sued over anticipated surveying. While the bullet train has political support in the metro areas of Texas, it has received almost universal condemnation in the rural parts of the state.

Texas law allows railroads to use imminent domain to forcibly buy land from owners who don’t want to sell. However, opponents of the rail project argue that Texas Central isn’t legally a railroad because it’s not operating any trains – a viewpoint that has been upheld in court. “Simply self-declaring that you are a railroad does not make it so,” said Kyle Workman, president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail. Opponents have pointed out that Texas Central does not operate as a railroad, owns no trains, and has not laid a single piece of track.

Texas Central is currently developing its high-speed passenger project that would connect Dallas to Houston in about 90 minutes. It plans to operate trains every 30 minutes, but first it must move ahead with its permitting, engineering, and designing needs. The shinkansen train technology that Texas Central wants to deploy is incompatible with all other railroads in Texas which would prohibit the line from connecting with other tracks. This would prove problematic if the hypothetical line ever wanted to expand to other areas of the state and would require a lot more money to build additional infrastructure. 

Texas Central claims that its project is privately-funded, but it would still rely on taxpayer backing, with the company making clear it will be seeking federal taxpayer dollars to help finance the bullet train. Analysis conducted by the Reason Foundation has called into question the projects costs and feasibility. The report pointed out that the Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Financing loans that Texas Central is applying for “have very weak taxpayer protections” and “could be awarded to entities that do not have the resources to repay them.” 

“While Texas Central may not be intending to take any public funding,” the report concludes, “we believe that if construction starts, the project will inevitably have to be bailed out by the taxpayers of Texas, which is unacceptable.”