February 6, 2019 - TRA Newswire -
Texas Rail Advocates is now tracking numerous bills filed again this session by a few rural legislators that are intent on stopping a private-investor group from linking Dallas and Houston by high-speed rail.
The list of anti-intercity passenger rail bills and TRA comments on the filings can be found HERE.
In the 2017 session over 20 bills were filed in the Texas House and Senate to stop Texas Central Railway from proceeding on plans to build a 240 mile long bullet train line that would lower travel times from North Texas to the Greater Houston area to just 90 minutes. Two bills did pass that Governor Abbott signed and those dealt with train safety and security and that the state is prohibited from using funds to construct, maintain or operate a high-speed line that is under private ownership. Texas Central had repeatedly said they would not accept any state or federal funds for construction or operation of the service.
The onslaught of bills this session may seem like a carbon-copy of the 2017 session and come from a group of legislators with rural districts between Dallas and Houston. Those lawmakers who have filed bills to kill high speed rail include:
Senator Charles Schwertner (R) Georgetown
Senator Brian Birdwell (R) Granbury
Senator Brandon Creighton (R) Conroe
Representative Trent Ashby (R) Lufkin
Representative John Wray (R) Waxahachie
Representative Cecil Bell (R) Magnolia
Representative Cody Harris (R) Palestine
Representative Harris, serving his first term in the Texas House, has been outspoken in his desire to stop high-speed passenger rail service from leaving the station. Harris was quoted in the February 5th issue of the Corsicana Dailly Sun as saying "I'm also working on legislation to kill the high speed rail. The proposed “bullet train” through our district will force people off their land and waste billions of taxpayer dollars. That land belongs to the landowners, not corporations or special interest groups, and those dollars could be used to properly fund our public schools. I fully oppose the project and will fight along-side other rural legislators in Austin until the plan is scrapped entirely. Stay tuned to my newsletter for details on the bills I will file to kill the High Speed Rail next week."
"Representative Harris is misinformed on the premise of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars since Texas Central is not accepting any funding from either state or federal agencies to build their high-speed line", according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "if this was a public project instead of a private-investor led initiative it would probably cost three times the amount to build and take years longer. Mr. Harris should also realize that Texas Central would be a taxpayer to help fund local schools. Letting private enterprise lead the way in Texas with this massive job-creating project to connect the two mega-powerhouse regions is the logical step. The state demographer says that over 80% of Texans now live on or east of the I-35 corridor. This rail project will help unite those regions and allow for more fluid movement in the future."
Adding to the intrigue behind this year's goal of some legislators to kill high speed rail is the placement of two anti-rail lawmakers on the House and Senate transportation committees. Senator Charles Schwertner was appointed to the Senate transportation committee. Schwertner had not previous served on the committee. Schwertner was extremely active last session in bills to stop the bullet train. On the House transportation committee, former Grimes County Judge Ben Lemans (pronounced la-mans) now serving his first term in the House, attacked Texas Central on numerous occasions while in his previous post.
Schwertner, on the Senate side, is now in company with Senate Transportation Committee Chair Robert Nichols and committee member Lois Kolkhorst who passed anti-high speed rail legislation out of the committee last year.