May 1, 2017 – TRA Newswire

Four bills are slated to be heard by the Texas House Transportation Committee Thursday morning that could either delay or kill a privately funded bullet train project slated to be built between Dallas and Houston.

“Now is the time for interested citizens and groups that want high speed rail to connect our major cities to come out Thursday morning and let your voices be heard,” according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. “These bills from a small number of rural legislators could harm or kill a railroad that wants to invest $10-12 billion dollars in our state and create 10,000 construction jobs. We have been waiting since Texas Rail Advocates was formed in 2000 for opportunities like this. A privately funded passenger railroad that wants to make this kind of investment in our state and connect the two largest mega-regions has never been this close to the finish line. These bills would not only kill the current Texas Central bullet train project but would make investment by other companies on other future routes, like I-35, impossible to build.”

The House Transportation Committee will meet Thursday morning May 4 at 8am in hearing room E2.012 in the Capitol. Interested parties can complete an electronic form in the kiosks behind the hearing room to either testify against the legislation or indicate that you do not support the following bills without having to testify. If you are unable to attend the Transportation Committee meeting a list of the members follows this post and you are urged to send a short email to voice your opposition.

HB 2172       Ashby | et al.
Relating to the use of state money for high-speed rail operated by a private entity.  Opposed. This is a bill looking for a problem that does not exist. Texas Central has said repeatedly that is does not want any state appropriations to build or operate its high speed railroad and there is no state appropriation in the budget.  Just like any other road, airport or port project the Texas Department of Transportation will continue to monitor the project to make sure it conforms to protocols just like in any other state, accomplishing this through it’s Rail Division.  The language in this bill, if passed, must match SB977 otherwise it could be confusing to implement by TxDOT. The short answer: it’s a bad bill. Kill it.
HB 2167       Schubert | et al.
Relating to state money or credit or a state guarantee used or provided for high-speed rail owned by a private entity. Opposed. This bill is all over the place with conflicting language. Since when would the state put a lien against a private transportation project when it does not have any financial interest in it? Do our state lawmakers want to own a privately financed high speed rail project? The bill states in one place that no state money should be involved and if the project runs into trouble the state would assume control. When have we ever done this to a private railroad? This bill causes mass confusion and should be opposed.  
HB 2163       Wray | et al.
Relating to the elevation of high-speed rail tracks in certain counties. Opposed. This bill micromanages how a private company would design and build any elevated structures and require a height of 40 feet above ground in certain counties, higher than most any TxDOT highway interchanges. Both the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration already have protocols in place when it concerns how to build a railroad. Texas Central is already required to meet government safety and design standards.  This bill would affect any future high speed railroads to be built in the state. It makes no sense.
HB 2104       Bell | et al.
Relating to the filing of a bond by a private high-speed rail operator with the Texas Department of Transportation. Opposed. This bill would damage the high speed railroad project. It discriminates against a passenger railroad by requiring bonds in this manner and for a project of this scope. Other private rail transportation projects aren’t required to do this. It creates confusion around the purchasing process of land and puts up barriers to building the project.  

Members of the Texas House Transportation Committee:

geanie.morrison@house.texas.gov; mando.martinez@house.texas.gov; celia.israel@house.texas.gov; cindy.burkett@house.texas.gov; craig.goldman@house.texas.gov; ed.thompson@house.texas.gov; ina.minjarez@house.texas.gov; Joe.pickett@house.texas.gov; john.wray@house.texas.gov; larry.phillips@house.texas.gov; ron.simmons@house.texas.gov; senfronia.thompson@house.texas.gov; Yvonne.davis@house.texas.gov