March 14, 2017 – TRA Newswire –
NARP is providing opportunities for its Texan members to reach out to their elected officials and safeguard this exciting private-sector rail project from attacks by special interest groups.
Matching the state’s rapidly growing reputation as an incubator for cutting edge technology, Texas is currently home to one of the most exciting passenger rail projects in the country. Not only would this new rail corridor connect Dallas and Houston via a cutting-edge transportation corridor, served by trains capable of hitting 205mph, the project is being developed by Texas Central Partners, which is helping to introduce a new model for private sector-led transportation investment to the U.S.
However, a set of misguided bills targeting the project has been filed in the state legislature. The bills would impose government regulations that restrict certain business activities and investments. Some of the bills even target passenger rail, specifically, creating an uneven playing field on which transportation companies can compete.
“If passed, these bills would deal two blows to Texas. First, by killing 10,000 direct jobs in construction and engineering that would be created over four years, and an additional 1,000 permanent jobs in operating and maintenance. The second through the loss of a desperately needed alternative to the overcrowded highways connecting two of the country’s fastest growing mega-regions, Dallas and Houston,” said NARP Chairman Peter LeCody, who also heads up the Texas Rail Advocates. “On behalf of the millions of Texans who rely on trains, I’m calling on the state legislature to reject these job-killing regulations.”
The bills seem to be a response, in large part, to a seriously flawed report released by the Reason Foundation that calls Texas Central’s business model into question. Critically, the report relies upon an outdated data set collected by the Texas Department of Transportation—a data set that TxDOT has specifically identified as outdated, stating it cannot be used for comparison purposes. Texas Central also revealed that they have reached out to the study’s author to ask him to review “proprietary programmatic information vital to providing him a complete and total picture of the project” (subject to a nondisclosure agreement), and that the author never responded to TCR’s inquiries.
“Given these two missteps—the first through a lack of due diligence, the second through an absence of curiosity—it’s hard to see this report as a good-faith effort to examine the project on its own merits,” said Jim Mathews, President and CEO of NARP. “I’m afraid this is another ideological attack by people offended at the idea of an alternative to highways—any alternative—which is worrying for the hardworking Texans who are regularly stuck in traffic on the heavily congested Interstate 45 corridor.”
Even in the face of this misguided opposition, Texas Central is making good progress on design work, engineering, and environmental reviews. The company hit major milestones in land acquisition for construction of the line, with the company announcing in February that it has reached option agreements on about 30 percent of the parcels needed for the line’s route.
The company has also been responsive to the concerns of local landowners, who were concerned about earlier attempts to gain access for surveying work through legal methods. Texas Central President Tim Keith stated that the company is “stepping back and going back to conversations and taking some of the heat out of our process,” preferring an “open dialogue” with the affected Texans.
About the National Association of Railroad Passengers:
NARP is the only national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.