April 5, 2017 – TRA Newswire – AUSTIN – UPDATED

All five of the bills that TRA opposed passed the committee today.

Texas Rail Advocates Executive Director Chris Lippincott testified before the Senate Transportation Committee today and expressed TRA’s views that oppose 5 bills that would weaken or kill the ability for private companies to build high speed rail projects in the state.

Here is Executive Director Lippincott’s testimony:

“Good morning, for the record, my name is Chris Lippincott, I am the Executive Director of Texas Rail Advocates. TRA was formed in 2000 to educate and inform the public on the benefits of both freight and passenger rail service in Texas and the Southwest. We’re committed to advancing economic growth and enhancing our quality of life by supporting the development of rail service to its full potential as a carrier of freight and passengers across the state.

TRA is opposed to all five of the bills presented here this morning. In short: Every one of these proposals is a short-term threat to high-speed train service and a long-term threat to public transit, freight rail and other infrastructure projects statewide.

Given the guidance I received from Committee staff, I’ve limited my remarks today to on all five bills to three minutes, and I found that affords me the opportunity to be refreshingly blunt: We, as a state, can either move the ball forward or let the ball roll right over us.

These bills single out high-speed rail projects including – but not limited to – the proposed Texas Central train between Houston and Dallas. They could also waive off private interest or outright kill projects serving Austin and San Antonio, the Valley, and eventually communities in West Texas and the Panhandle.

Discouraging passenger train service for our growing cities would mean that millions of taxpayer dollars already spent on route studies will have gone to waste.

Worse, if we start drawing arbitrary lines on projects because of their speed or their finance instruments, it sends a chilling message to business and investment interests who want to bet on Texas.

Why wouldn’t they think that the proposals before you today could be expanded to included right-of-way for highway projects that serve their factories? Or freight rail lines that move agricultural goods? Or commuter rail projects serving the suburbs of Houston, Austin, and other Texas cities?

The state of Texas could not make it clearer that there is no appetite to invest TxDOT’s limited resources in train service. But for some reason, that’s not enough. These bills will turn the Texas welcome mat for investment into a “Do Not Enter” sign.

Policies set forth decades ago have helped make possible more than 10,000 miles of freight track and more than 200 miles of passenger train infrastructure in Texas. These policies and our continued economic and population growth have now attracted new industries and opportunities to our state.

The bills under consideration today would lower the high ceiling on our state’s future.Hundreds of private companies, including railroads, pipelines, telecommunications providers currently have the authority to use eminent domain under limited circumstances. These are businesses that pay taxes and bring the world to the doorsteps of Texans.

Getting our natural resources and crops to market and bringing high-speed internet to Texas classrooms requires right-of-way.

Let’s not send the message that we’ve given up on moving goods, people, and even ideas across the state by starting to hand-select businesses in these industries in a way that does nothing to provide landowners broader protections.

Finally, I would ask the members of this committee who proudly call themselves conservatives to review the policy paper “No Basis for Conservative Opposition to the Texas Central Rail Project” released this week by the Institute for Policy Innovation. I supplied the Committee clerk with copies of the brief article which makes it clear that following state and national property rights laws and allowing private businesses to take risks and invest in Texas to bring much-needed infrastructure to our state sends the right message about our commitment to free enterprise and innovation.

There’s nothing conservative about highway congestion. Road noise and traffic fatalities are nothing cherish.

Bringing our communities closer together and leaving the door open for new ideas represent the best notions of Texas in the 21st century. I hope you’ll keep those values in mind as you scrutinize these troubling proposals.”