August 27, 2023 - TRA Newswire -
Following a joint announcement that national passenger rail provider Amtrak and Dallas-Houston bullet train developer Texas Central Railway may form a partnership to advance high-speed rail, a rural U.S. Congressman and a Texas State Representative blasted the proposed idea.
Rural Congressman Jake Ellzey and State Representative Cody Harris, known for their past efforts in attempting to kill a high-speed rail project to connect Dallas-Fort Worth to Houston, released the following statement:
"We are a long way from Congress and the Federal Government authorizing the supposed deal between Amtrak and Texas Central to use eminent domain to take Texans' property,” said Ellzey. “Land cannot be taken, homes destroyed, and lives disrupted for a private company's boondoggle. While in Congress, I will never give in when it comes to opposing private interests using eminent domain for projects like this. I will continue to work with my fellow Texans to ensure private property rights are held, and our farmland is kept intact."
Ellzey Continued, “Over the coming weeks, my office will be in contact with Amtrak for a detailed explanation of the status of the high-speed rail project and how they view the execution of this project would impact the folks of my district and all of rural Texas.”
“Like clockwork, Texas Central is proving what I have been saying for the last year or more: they cannot exist without taxpayer money coming from Washington DC,” said Harris. “So, the high-speed rail that doesn’t have a board of directors, doesn’t have it’s own real CEO, doesn’t have any employees or even its own telephone number, is trying to partner with another railroad that lost over $2 Billion last year. Amtrak and Texas Central seem like perfect bedfellows as they’ll both cost taxpayers billions more than they‘ll bring in. I’ll continue to do everything possible to fight this disastrous and failed idea.”
Mayors of both Houston and Dallas disagree and have been strong supporters of the high-speed rail project to link the mega-regions.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement "the collaboration between Texas Central and Amtrak is an important milestone for the city of Houston and this project,. Our city is committed to advancing transportation initiatives that support economic growth and enhance quality of life for our residents.""
Dallas Mayor Eric L. Johnson said "It is bold, innovative endeavors like this that will propel Dallas toward an even more prosperous future. Dallas is the engine of the fourth-largest and fastest-growing region in the nation.
The pushback from rural detractors is nothing new and had been brewing since the high-speed line was proposed ten years ago. After years of legal battles, last year the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Texas Central and their ability to exercise eminent domain to gain the footprint needed for the rail line.
"The project is now estimated to cost $25-30 billion dollars, driven by years of roadblocks at the local and state level," according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "It's no wonder it takes decades to get any worthwhile project completed, even when it's done by a private concern like Texas Central.
"Ellzey and Harris both voted to deny a single dollar of help from the state of Texas and now they are against any federal high-speed rail funding that is currently available through the Infrastructure Bill, including the use of Private Activity Bonds", said LeCody. "All other forms of transportation, even highways, receive taxpayer funding to some degree, but it seems that these 'Limousine Legislators' say that passenger rail has to be excluded."
The route would shave hours off of driving time between North Texas and the Houston region with frequent trains covering the 240-mile run in under 90 minutes.
Amtrak said that the train would save 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year and take 12,500 cars off Interstate-45 each day.
Both entities have submitted applications for federal grants to fund study and design work on the corridor, which would need about a 100-foot wide right-of-way for two tracks. Those grant applications are for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvement fund, the Corridor Identification and Development program and the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program.
Photo credit: Texas Central