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Texans Against High-Speed Rail Begin to Flex Legal Muscle

Opposition to the Dallas-to-Houston private Texas Central high-speed rail line has gotten more serious with the creation of a defense fund to assist property owners in protecting their property rights. Texas Central plans to break ground next year.
July 8, 2016, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The Central Station in Dallas, shown with a Trinity Railway Express train.
Philip Lange

"The organization, Texans Against High-Speed Rail, is dedicated to fight against Texas Central and their efforts of bringing the train to Texas," reports Vagney Bradley for Your Houston News. "One of the main concerns about the train is eminent domain."

"[T]he leadership of Texans Against High-Speed Rail has created a special litigation partnership with Dallas law firm, The Beckham Group, as well as formed a new Texas nonprofit corporation named TAHSR Land Defense Fund," according to the Jewett-based organization's press release on Feb. 2.  The group "will champion the private property right of Texans by focusing his litigation efforts on stopping the project to protect landowners whose property would be devastated by this unwarranted project."

In March, the defense fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Leon County resident against a Texas Central affiliate "to challenge an exceptionally broad 'survey permission form' that landowners along the proposed route of the Dallas Houston High Speed Rail (HSR) are being asked to sign," according to the Tomball-based Tribune News.

Public subsidies?

Another issue that concerns rail opponents is what they perceive to be the likely need for public subsidy.

"Even though the high-speed rail is a private project by a private company, the organization against the train believes that the project will not stay private," writes Bradley.

“The primary thing they need to think about is the inevitable tax payer subsidies," said Kyle Workman, volunteer for Texans Against High-Speed Rail. "Another fact that we know is that no public infrastructure project greater than one billion dollars has ever been built with private money."

"Texas Central is paying for engineering studies with $75 million from Texas investors, $40 million from a state-backed Japanese development fund and about $130 million in design work from two firms," reported Robin Respaut for Reuters on May 5. "The Dallas-to-Houston rail line is projected to cost $12 billion and be completed by 2021."

While the company has "left open" the possibility of using U.S. Department of Transportation private-activity bonds, reported Eric Nicholson of the Dallas Observer on Aug. 11, 2015, that would not be unusual for a private company. "All Aboard Florida, the country’s first privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail service," according to its website, applied for $1.75 billion in these tax-exempt bonds. The Miami-to-Orlando, 125 mph "higher-speed rail" known as Brightline is expected to begin Miami-to-West Palm Beach service to next year.

"Texans Against High-Speed Rail does not plan on backing down in their efforts to stop the creation of the bullet train," adds Bradley. "The organization against the high-speed rail project does not believe that Texas Central will be able to break ground on the bullet train at the end of next year."

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Journal Update.

Full Story:
Published on Saturday, July 2, 2016 in Your Houston News
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