April 17, 2019 - TRA Austin -

anti-bullet train bills were left pending in committee

Into the midnight hour today a special House Transportation sub-committee heard 11 bills that were all designed to slow down or kill a private enterprise building a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston. While the committee heard testimony for and against the measures, none of the bills advanced to a vote. All 11 were left pending should the full House Transportation Committee bring them up in a subsequent meeting.

The anti-high speed rail bills ran the gamut and many of the bills were retreads from ones that failed in the 2017 legislative session.

tracks would have to be entirely elevated at least 40 feet above ground level regardless of terrain
train technology would conform to other existing railroads, even though these trains would run up to 200 mph and not be on the same tracks
allow a County Commissioners Court to stop a project if permission is not granted for access to a county road
not allowing Private Activity Bonds for a high-speed rail project which runs contrary to other transportation efforts and is being used by private railway Brightline in Florida
rule making that would make it difficult or impossible to survey land for the project
excessive rules concerning bonds and options on land needed for construction
should the railroad go bankrupt the entire route would be deconstructed and land placed back into its original condition

Speaking against the 11 bad high-speed rail bills were Texas Central Railway spokespersons Travis Kelly and Holly Reed, along with technical and financial advisers. Holly Reed from Texas Central said that the railroad is close to a final route decision from the Federal Railroad Administration and that the bills that were filed would be detrimental to the project.

Michael Morris, Director of Transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments spoke on the need for high-speed rail to connect major Texas cities.

Testifying against all 11 bills was Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody, along with representatives from Transportation Advocacy Group (TAG)-Houston. Dallas Regional Chamber, City of Dallas, Texas Association of Business and others that also gave testimony against the proposed laws.

Sub-Committee Vice Chair Ben Leman, freshman Republican Representative from Brenham, spent the majority of the committee time hammering at virtually all of those who were opposed to the bills. Leman is the former Grimes County Judge who had been the most vocal in efforts to stop high-speed rail in Texas. He was especially acrimonious with the representative from the Dallas Regional Chamber during her testimony, cutting several others off in mid-sentence while they were testifying.

The hearing, which started at 8am on Tuesday was cut short when the full House convened at 10am and the balance of the bills were not heard until proceedings resumed at 7pm last night.