TRA Decries Closed Door Legislative Maneuvers and Aims to Rally Public Support for Continued Rail in Texas
Enthusiasm for expanded rail travel has been building across Texas in recent years, forcing opponents to resort to underhanded legislative tactics in their bid to preserve the status quo. Rather than hold an open debate on the issue, Texas Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) filed a rider to the Senate budget bill that introduced unnecessary government regulations to stop progress on a high speed rail line to be built between North Texas and Houston.
Singling out Texas Central Railway, Birdwell’s budget bill language aims to stop the Texas Department of Transportation from coordinating access across state roads with the private operator behind the high speed train. Unfortunately, special interests won out and the rider was approved in a close, contentious vote by the Senate Finance Committee.
The flawed bill now heads to the full Senate though it has not yet been added to the final budget proposal. Proponents of high speed rail in Texas will have the opportunity to remove it in the budget conference committee which will be made up of panels from both chambers. An identical budget rider ploy was used in 2017 as part of efforts to keep Texas Central from advancing their high speed rail efforts.
“Using the Senate budget to insert language that penalizes a private company for wanting to inject $15 billions in infrastructure spending into the state of Texas is more than just a misuse of power by Senator Birdwell,” said Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. “It also sends a chilling message to business and industry that we don’t encourage private investment in our state and that we don’t want Texans to have transportation choices. The budget process is supposed to be used to allocate taxpayer dollars and not to be used for a vendetta to kill high speed rail to be built and run by a private concern.”
Texas Central Partners LLC concurred, stating that the new language would “encourage lawsuits and is not beneficial for good coordination and planning.”
As it stands, the language in the budget bill rider would tie Texas Central Railway’s hands until there is a final, un-appealable court ruling on the project’s eminent domain authority. This contrasts with existing Texas law, which give projects for the public good (such as companies building power lines, pipelines and railroads) the authority to compensate landowners for needed property.
Texas Rail Advocates is a 501(c)3 not for profit grass roots organization. TRA was formed in 2000 to educate and inform the public and private sector on the benefits of the then newly designated South Central High Speed Rail Corridor. The mission of TRA has evolved into a broader educational and informational resource that covers both freight and passenger rail issues in Texas and the Southwest.