March 22, 2019 - TRA Newswire -

Palestine State Representative Cody Harris' House Bill 1370 gets a hearing Monday before the House Administration Committee. The bill calls for a creation of a joint-interim committee on high-speed rail development.

"While the title of the bill sounds like a good step forward, the author of the bill expressed in public that his intent is to kill high speed rail development in Texas," according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "Representative Harris' blatant attempt to stop high speed rail in its tracks is wrapped up in a series of bills he filed this session. Harris was elected with over a $1.1 million dollar war chest in a rural district with little competition. That's about 4 to 5 times more than other freshmen legislators gathered to win their seat. One has to wonder if Harris is a front man set up with outside influence to keep Texans from riding high-speed trains."

In a press release Harris started that “The purpose of this bill (HB 1370) is to put up more roadblocks on the HSR by evaluating the feasibility of creating a statewide high-speed rail initiative through a public-private partnership.” LeCody responded "this sounds like a colossal waste of legislative time and taxpayer money to hear this bill at all. It will send a chilling notice to private enterprise that you shouldn't do business in Texas."

If you want to register your displeasure with House Bill 1370 here are the members of the House Administration Committee:

Chairman Charlie Geren (Fort Worth); Vice Chair Donna Howard (Austin); Committee Members Rafael Anchia (Dallas);  Charles "Doc" Anderson (Waco); Dan Flynn (Canton); Lina Ortega (El Paso); Tan Parker (Flower Mound); Sanford Scott (McKinney); Carl Sherman (Lancaster); Thierry Shawn (Houston) and Ed Thompson (Pearland.

"There have been several dozen bills filed in the legislative session by a small group of rural legislators that would either have a chilling effect on private enterprise development or outright kill non-road transportation choices for Texans," according to Texas Rail Advocates' LeCody. "The State Demographer reports that the majority of Texans now live either along or east of the I-35 corridor toward the eastern state boundary. This region of Texas will continue to grow and will need more transportation choices, like high-speed rail. Harris should try working with entities that will bring economic growth and good jobs to Texas and find ways to mitigate environmental concerns rather than being a roadblock."

Texas Central, the private enterprise that is in the final planning stage to build a high-speed line from North Texas to Houston, said in a statement that "over the last few years, we have spent tens of millions of dollars studying, understanding, and regularly updating the data on ridership and cost to build the project.  We have investment grade level information, as well as cost estimates from the world’s most experienced builders and operators in order to build the Texas high-speed train service. We appreciate this focus on high-speed trains in Texas and the desire to look at Public Private Partnerships.  Regarding the Texas Central railroad, the private sector has provided the resources necessary for the complex and ongoing study of this route, which is above and beyond any focus that has ever been undertaken or that public finances would likely support. "

Over the past week Texas Central employees delivered copies of more than 21,000 of letters of support from Texans directly to legislators in Austin. Texas Central spokesperson Holly Reed said "your support makes a difference and is having a positive impact on the negative legislation being proposed about the project.  We are following those bills closely and as a reminder, none of them create jobs, drive safety, or solve congestion. Texas Central has requested no legislation."


This week marked that lawmakers are officially past the halfway point in the 86th Legislative Session The week marked the first four-day week on the House floor, as well as the first week bills were heard on the full House floor.
The respective Transportation committees were quiet in rail news this week.
Texas Rail Advocates did show support for a rail safety bill (HB 2775) after meeting with staffers of author State Representative Matt Krause (R) - Fort Worth in Austin.  The bill would add language to current law that would make it unlawful for pedestrians to move in front of, under, between or through the cars of a moving or stationary train that is occupying any part of a railroad grade crossing. Present law covers vehicles that cut around crossing gates in an attempt to beat a train but does not cover those on foot. The bill was left pending in committee.
There was a “Kill High-Speed Rail” Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, though observers did not seen signs it was impactful. There was little to no media coverage and almost zero mention of it amongst offices.