As Texas Central Railway awaits the outcome of a federal review to start construction of the 240-mile long high speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, protests from landowners and one Houston area Congressman continue.
Texas Central hopes to break ground later this year with a timeline of running 200 mile per hour trains between the two major metro areas by 2026. When completed, this would be the first true high-speed train in the U.S., mirroring what the rest of the world experiences in rail travel. The privately-funded rail project is expected to cost about $20 billion and would be the largest one-off infrastructure project in Texas in decades.
Last week a group known as Texans Against High Speed Rail (TAHSR) held a meeting at the Grimes County Expo Center. Kyle Workman, President of TAHSR was quoted in the Navasota Examiner as saying “We do not like the use of eminent domain for a private company solely for private gain and we do not like the inevitable taxpayer subsidy that we believe will take place because we know without a doubt that passenger rail in the United States is subsidized and every high-speed rail unit in the world is subsidized and these guys (TCR) don’t have the magic formula to figure out how to do it,” stated Workman.
Texas Central has repeatedly stated they will accept no state or federal handouts for construction or operation of the rail system. In a statement earlier this week the company said "Texas has the capacity, drive and population growth needed to make the Texas High-Speed-Train successful and it’s that momentum from across Texas and the country that’s pushing the nation’s first high-speed train forward.” Much of the rail line will be built alongside of high-tension power lines that run between the two mega-regions.
United States Congressman Kevin Brady, running for re-election this year, has also inserted himself into the high speed rail issue. “I think the bigger challenge in Washington is the Surface Transportation Board." The STB is expected to issue a ruling this year that would determine if Texas Central is more than just an intrastate railroad and falls under stricter supervision from the federal government. Brady also expects proposed safety regulations from the Federal Railroad Administration to be released within the next several weeks. Regulations are required because the U.S. has no protocols in place for trains that travel over 150 miles per hour like the rest of the world. A public comment period will start once the draft safety rules are released.
Texas Central says the project could provide up to 10,000 construction jobs and contribute more than $35 billion in economic benefits across the state over the next 25 years. It would provide needed sale tax revenue to rural counties between Dallas and Houston that are fighting the project.
On Tuesday, attorneys on both sides of a lawsuit arguing about eminent domain and the proposed train path met in a Waco courtroom. The suit is expected to advance to the Texas Court of Appeals later this year.