Transportation

Debate Over High-Speed Rail Goes Before A State Senate Committee

A package of bills puts limitations on the private company currently developing the project. One measure deals with eminent domain while another addresses state funding.

The Senate Transportation Committee hears testimony on a package of bills related to high-speed rail in Texas.

Texas Central Railway maintains it can legally use eminent domain to acquire property for the privately-funded project, a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas. But a measure would prohibit a company from using eminent domain for high-speed rail.

Texas Central Executive Director Tim Keith argued the bill isn’t fair because it singles out one company in particular.

“And seeks to separate it from the body of law already in place for all railroads and all other industries working to build public good assets,” said Keith. He added they would only use eminent domain as a last resort.

But Terri Hall with Texans for Toll-Free Highways said the confiscation of private property is reason enough to stop the project.

“All this company needs is the threat of eminent domain to pressure people into signing those agreements to hand over their property,” said Hall.

The project remains controversial in Grimes and Waller Counties, where some landowners say they’ve felt pressure to sign option agreements for their property. Grimes County Judge Ben Leman has questioned whether Texas Central actually has eminent domain authority as a railroad because it doesn’t yet have tracks or equipment.

Another bill being considered by the senate would prohibit the use of state funds for a high-speed rail project developed by a private company. Sponsors of the measure say they don’t want taxpayers to subsidize the railroad if it runs into financial trouble.    

 

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Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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