Texas Lawmakers Put the Brakes on High Speed Rail

Since the Texas Central Railroad announced plans to build a high speed rail connecting Dallas to Houston, many landowners whose property is located along the rail line’s proposed routes have expressed concerns about the project.

One of the major issues Texas landowners have with Texas Central is the company’s assertion that it has rights to acquire land through eminent domain. TCR contends that, as a railroad company, they have rights to use eminent domain. Many property owners and lawmakers disagree. In fact, many property owners and lawmakers wonder if TCR is even a real railroad company. Under Texas law, a railroad company is defined as a legal entity operating a railroad. Since the TCR does is not currently operating any trains, argue opponents, it does not qualify as a railroad company.

Residents living along the proposed route feel that the project doesn’t benefit the rural counties it crosses and ruins the rural character of their communities.

Others question the economic feasibility of a high speed rail line and worry that taxpayers may have to pick up the tab if the TCR fails.

Texas Lawmakers Respond to Constituents’ Concerns

In response to these concerns, almost a dozen Texas state lawmakers, mostly representing rural and suburban districts along the proposed route, have submitted a number of bills aimed at putting the brakes on Texas Central Railroad’s high speed rail project. These bills address the concerns of their constituents, making it harder for the TCR to survey and acquire land through the use of eminent domain as well as protect taxpayers from any financial liabilities if the TCR abandons the project.

State Senators Birdwell (Granbury), Creighton (Conroe), Kolkhorst (Brenham), Perry (Lubbock), and Schwertner (Georgetown) along with State Representatives Ashby (Lufkin), Bell (Magnolia), Cook (Corsicana), Schubert (Caldwell), and Wray (Waxahachie) are among the legislators who have introduced a host of bills in recent days pertaining to the TCR’s high speed rail project.

These bills include:

  • SB 973 by Creighton/HB 2168 by Bell (Railroad Determination Before Surveys) – prohibits a private high-speed rail entity from entering private property to conduct a survey unless the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) first determines that the surveying entity is, in fact, a railroad.
  • SB 974 by Creighton/HB 2181 by Cook (Option Contract Protection) – voids any high-speed rail option contracts held by a high-speed rail entity upon a bankruptcy initiated by or against the entity.
  • SB 975 by Birdwell/HB 2169 by Schubert (Security Requirements) – provides a framework of minimum security requirements to be followed during the construction and operation of a private high-speed rail line. Requires the high-speed rail authority to coordinate security efforts with state and local law enforcement, as well as disaster response agencies.
  • SB 977 by Schwertner/HB 2172 by Ashby (No Taxpayer Bailout) – prohibits the legislature from appropriating new funds, or allowing state agencies to utilize existing funds, to pay any costs related to the construction, maintenance, or operation of a private high-speed rail in Texas.
  • SB 978 by Schwertner/HB 2104 Bell (Property Restoration Bond) – requires a private high-speed rail entity to file a bond with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) sufficient to restore property used for the rail service to the property’s original conditions if the service ceases operation.
  • SB 979 by Schwertner/HB 2179 by Cook (Right of Repurchase for Non-HSR Use) – prohibits an entity that operates or plans to operate a high-speed rail from using property acquired for purposes other than high-speed rail. If the high-speed rail authority doesn’t use the property for that specific purpose, the original landowner must be given the opportunity to repurchase the land.
  • SB 980 by Schwertner/HB 2167 by Schubert (Put Texas First) – prohibits any state money from being used for any purpose related to a privately owned high-speed rail, unless the state acquires and maintains a lien in order to secure the repayment of state funds. Requires that the state’s lien be superior to all other liens, effectively making Texas a priority creditor.
  • SB 981 by Kolkhorst/HB 2162 by Wray (Interoperability) – requires an entity constructing a high-speed rail line in Texas to demonstrate compatibility with more than one type of train technology.
  • SB 982 by Perry/HB 2173 by Ashby (High-Speed Rail Feasibility Study) – upon request of a legislator, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) must generate a feasibility study of a proposed high-speed rail project. The study must indicate whether the project is for a public use, whether it will be financially viable, and what impact of the project will have on local communities.

“This group of foreign investors is threating to seize family farms, physically divide the state of Texas, and have a gravely detrimental impact on the citizens I represent,” said State Representative Leighton Schubert in a recent press release. “At a minimum, the people of Texas deserve reasonable reassurances that their private property rights will be respected and that they will not be left holding the bag if this ill-conceived project fails.”

Dawson & Sodd Fight to Protect Texas Land Owners’ Rights

The law firm of Dawson & Sodd has been protecting the rights of Texas property owners since 1894. During that time we’ve earned a solid reputation for successfully representing Texas landowners in eminent domain and property condemnation cases all over the state. Our clients know they can depend on the skills, expertise and dedication of our team of Texas eminent domain lawyers to protect their rights.

The Texas high speed rail attorney team at Dawson & Sodd, along with attorneys from The Beckham Group, are currently helping landowners in the fight against the Texas high speed rail project. Don’t let the government, Texas Central Railroad or other entity violate your property rights. Contact Dawson & Sodd today at 214-373-8181 and discussed your case with an experienced high speed railroad attorneys.

 


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