In what seems like a never ending chain of lawsuits against a high-speed rail line, rural counties and landowners between Dallas and Houston are at it again. Texas Central Railroad, the private company in the final planning stages of a bullet train project between Dallas and Houston, is not the recipient of a lawsuit this time. Now the alleged culprit is the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).
Six counties between Dallas and Houston as well as several landowners and an anti-high speed rail group say that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a division of the USDOT, failed to consider what they call reasonable alternatives to the bullet-train technology. The lawsuit accuses the FRA of approving the project in violation of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and that the Japanese bullet train technology won't connect to existing railways.
Opponents insist that the Shinkansen (shin-kan'-sen) high speed rail technology trains won't run on any other tracks and other trains won't be allowed to run on its tracks. "I'm scratching my head on this one," according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody, "because when these trains operate at 200 miles per hour on a specially designed track bed you aren't going to have other railroads with slower moving trains run on them. That would be foolish."
The trains will operate on the same standard gauge as other U.S. railroads but with specialized equipment, track, signals and other operating protocols designed for high speed operation. "You wouldn't want a freight train operating at 50 miles per hour on the same track with a high-speed passenger train running four times faster," said LeCody. "This is some of the same hyperbole we heard from previous bills filed in the state legislature over the past decade and from the anti-high speed rail crowd that don't want Texans to connect by high speed trains between major cities."
Texas rural counties that joined in the lawsuit are Freestone, Grimes, Leon, Madison, Navarro and Waller. They are joined by landowners Ronny Caldwell, Calvin House, Donovan Maretick, David & Heather Miseldine, Ronald & Becky Scasta, Gene & Michaelle Whitesides, and Logan Wilson III.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, in Waco. It is titled Texans Against High-Speed Rail Inc. et al. v. U.S. Department of Transportation et al., case number 6:21-cv-00365.
The complaint states that "if construction starts but cannot be completed or the project collapses after operations commence, miles and miles of the rural Texas environment will be scarred with a useless, hulking, rusting piece of iron."
The lawsuit states "FRA made inexplicable and irrational decisions while running roughshod over [National Environmental Policy Act]'s procedural requirements, the [Administrative Procedure Act]'s constraint on arbitrary and capricious decision-making, and Texans' private property rights. FRA merely papered the file in an attempt to justify decisions that had already been made."
The FRA did conduct an extensive multi-year environmental review while Texas Central held dozens of meetings with groups and stakeholders along the entire 240 mile line.
The FRA website states "FRA evaluated 22 potential route alternatives within five major geographical areas using environmental constraints screening criteria, as required by NEPA. As part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the environmental and social impacts of various alternative High Speed Rail (HSR) route alignments were analyzed including possible routes that share corridors with an existing rail line and along electric utility lines. TCRR’s proposed HSR line would operate on a dedicated right-of-way and would not share track or infrastructure with existing trains or rail lines. In addition, the EIS analyzed the potential impacts of stations, power or fueling stations, and maintenance facilities to support HSR operations."
Texas Central Railroad checked off most of the required boxes to build the rail line last year and now must receive approval from the Surface Transportation Board in Washington D.C. When built it will connect two of the top 10 metropolitan regions in the U.S. with fast, frequent service that will cover 240 miles in 90 minutes. It would be on par with many other countries around the world that enjoy high speed passenger rail service, something that is foreign to travelers in this country.
the lawsuit says. "Throughout the process, and likely related to having acted so far outside its lawful mission,