July 4, 2016

Tall Texas tales.

The Waxahachie Daily Light published an opinion piece from Commissioner Marty Hiles of the Community Development Sub Regional Planning Commission in its June 30, 2016 edition.

This is not the first time we have seen Mr. Hiles hyperbole in print fanning the flames against high speed rail. We understand his position on a proposed high speed rail project between Dallas and Houston. He wants to kill it.

But outrageous comments made in a public forum when Mr. Hiles represents himself as a public official are way out of line. Mr. Hiles should act in a manner befitting a public official or he should resign.

Let's look at his post and what Texas Central, the railway building the bullet train to link the two mega-regions, have to say:

Hiles: (They) receive federal and state public support and funding, even peripheral toll road funds from TxDOT.

Texas Central: This is being led by the private sector – it is not a government project. There is no taxpayer funding, contrary to misinformation spread by some individuals. The project does not need, does not want and will not ask for government grants for construction or public money to subsidize operations. The system will be backed by investors’ capital and operate at a profit, based on ridership, revenue and service that meets consumer demand for a superior travel experience.

Hiles: TCP refuse even under a pending lawsuit to open up their records to the public.

Texas Central: The (Surface Transportation Board) protective order was needed to keep commercially sensitive information guarded within a discovery process. Public disclosure could have an adverse competitive impact on Texas Central.

Hiles: Recently, TCP filed with the Fed R/R Admin, Surface Transportation Board (STB) requesting to bypass the Environmental Study and land survey so they could condemn private property immediately to file Eminent Domain.

Texas Central: Texas Central’s filing for the exemption process is quite standard. In Federal law, (49 U.S.C. §10502), Congress commanded that the STB “shall” exempt proposed projects rather than subjecting them to lengthy regulatory review “to the maximum extent consistent with” the national rail transportation policy.  For this and other reasons, exemptions are routinely requested by and granted to railroads to construct and operate new rail lines. The STB's prior decisions make clear that eminent domain is strictly a matter of state law. The Petition for Clarification filed with the STB in April does not seek to exempt the project from, or to override, Texas state eminent domain law.

Hiles: It will require a 25 foot high, 105 to 145 foot wide dirt berm (requiring over 20 million cubic yards of local earthen material) cutting through Ellis County devastating farms, communities, businesses and taxes for schools. Texas statutes allow TCP a four mile wide path to take local sand and water for concrete and dirt to build a colossal earthen wall for the HSR.

Texas Central: To the greatest extent possible, the construction of the project will take place along land that is already reserved for or impacted by another transportation or utility facility. This means that impact on landowners will be minimized during both construction and operation.

Hiles:  The major stakeholder for the HSR is the Japanese banks who will have eminent domain rights in Texas

Texas Central:  More than $245 million has been raised or committed to the project. Investors and partners, including many notable Texans, have gotten involved after a rigorous, and independent examination of the business plan. With this innovative project, Texas investors are putting their money on the line because Texans want a safe, affordable and productive transportation choice.

Hiles:  Look at California, it’s a boondoggle where many of the problems are similar to Texas HSR.

Texas Rail Advocates: California has its share of woes but it's a public project backed by state and federal funding. Texas Central is a private enterprise.

Mr. Hiles, please get your facts right the next time.