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  #241  
Old Posted Apr 29, 2019, 8:26 PM
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Texas High Speed Rail Faces a New Threat: Semantics

https://www.citylab.com/transportati...t-route/587743

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- Some of the opposition to the project focuses on an oddly existential question: whether the company is a railroad at all. “Simply self-declaring that you are a railroad does not make it so,” Kyle Workman, the president of the opposition group Texans Against High-Speed Rail, told the Houston Chronicle in February. — The terminology is important for reasons beyond its own sake. Being a railroad or not determines whether Texas Central is entitled to use eminent domain as it surveys and acquires property. State law allows railroads and certain other private companies to use eminent domain to seize land for projects in the public interest.

- In February, in response to a lawsuit by a landowning couple in rural Leon County, a district court ruled that Texas Central did not have that right. The firm is “not a railroad or interurban electric company,” the judge stated, because it hasn’t laid track or run a train yet. — And there may be still more hoops to jump if some legislators get their way. Earlier this month, Texas Senator Brian Birdwell added language to the state’s proposed 2020 budget that would curtail Texas Central’s ability to communicate with state government officials as it proceeds.

- It is one of just many bills filed in this year’s legislative session, mostly by rural Republican lawmakers, aimed at dragging down or outright terminating the high-speed rail project by creating additional regulatory requirements. Texas Central has dodged other such attempts in the past, but this year, there are more than ever, according to Workman. As the Texas Tribune reported this week, an entire congressional subcommittee has been appointed to referee the battle over the multibillion-dollar proposal.

- What motivates combatants? A few factors seem likely, including a Texas-tight attachment to property rights (some 95 percent of land is privately held), and fear that the privately funded project could run aground and force state taxpayers to save it. It’s also hard to ignore the possible influence of bias against passenger rail promulgated by various right-leaning think tanks and other conservative critics. Texas bullet train detractors frequently point to California’s high-speed rail project as a ghoulish postcard from the future.

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  #242  
Old Posted Apr 29, 2019, 10:41 PM
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...mostly by rural Republican lawmakers...
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...possible influence of bias against passenger rail promulgated by various right-leaning think tanks and other conservative critics.

You don't say?
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  #243  
Old Posted Apr 30, 2019, 12:54 AM
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Bias or no bias, these Texas Senators were elected to office, they deserve more respect than what many naysayers will give.
Bias or no bias, none of these proposals have passed the Texas House, where urban interests generally rule. Laws require both the House and Senate to pass.

Every other year (Texas Legislature only sits the year after election - not in the election year) since Texas Central announced its' intention to build a HSR line. Several laws have passed, none of them have placed Texas Central into a critical condition - it is still alive and kicking.

True, a state court in Leon Country ruled against Texas Central, a state court in Harris Country ruled in its favor. Both cases are being appealed. Who knows what the Texas Supreme Court will rule.

And if all it takes for Texas Central is to own tracks and a train to be declared a railroad so it can have eminent domain powers, the City of Dallas has lots of land to sell in the Trinity River wetlands where miles of tracks can be laid and a train can be run.

At best, all these lawsuits end up doing is delaying the construction. There's plenty of options available to overcome them.
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  #244  
Old Posted Apr 30, 2019, 5:51 PM
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Originally Posted by electricron View Post
And if all it takes for Texas Central is to own tracks and a train to be declared a railroad so it can have eminent domain powers, the City of Dallas has lots of land to sell in the Trinity River wetlands where miles of tracks can be laid and a train can be run.
This argument doesn't pass the sniff test. Texas Central is an entity explicitly formed for the purpose of building and operating train service. Y'know, a railroad. The kind of pretzel logic required to claim Texas Central isn't a railroad is mind-boggling. The body of law created in the 1800s and 1900s to deal with railroads still applies if somebody wants to build a new greenfield railroad. If Texas wanted to rescind that power, or restrict it to only railroads existing as of 1940 and their successors, they had literally decades to do that and they chose not to.

The City of Dallas is a municipal corporation with many, many different functions, so your hypothetical is a straw man. If an entity wanted to hypothetically declare themselves a railroad to abuse the power of eminent domain for other purposes unrelated to rail service, I'm sure Texas law provides a path for each of those takings to be challenged in court since they were done in bad faith. Even 100 years after the initial taking has occurred, the original use of eminent domain to create railroad rights-of-way is still a major barrier to the abandonment of those lands and the sale to private owners, since that land was always intended for quasi-public use. That's why rail-trails became so common, because they preserve public use of the land while also discouraging squatting or other illegal use of the land.

Also, the argument that the state will be forced to step in if Texas Central goes bankrupt is another fallacy. If Texas Central goes bankrupt, any construction work that is completed could be purchased by another company, either to run Houston-Dallas passenger service or for different purposes altogether (e.g. freight service). I'm sure UP, BNSF or KCS would love to get a grade-separated corridor at a deep discount. Or it could simply be abandoned. In no case is the State of Texas or its taxpayers responsible for the railroad, unless they actively choose to accept responsibility - and even then the structures and earthworks could be used for other public uses like a trail or a highway, which would be subject to public approvals at every step along the way.

Lastly the opposition to this project seems pretty hypocritical when rural lawmakers usually support pipelines or highway bypasses in their district, which also require the use of eminent domain. The message here isn't really "eminent domain is an abuse", the message is "we just don't like trains or the people who ride them".
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Last edited by ardecila; Apr 30, 2019 at 6:19 PM.
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  #245  
Old Posted Apr 30, 2019, 6:53 PM
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Can anyone imagine Texas throwing a roadblock in front of a fossil fuel venture claiming a start up drilling company can't possibly be legit because they aren't already drilling and extracting gas or oil? Nope, didn't think so. All the GOP would be lining up to cut the ribbon. Scum.
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  #246  
Old Posted Apr 30, 2019, 6:58 PM
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Also, the argument that the state will be forced to step in if Texas Central goes bankrupt is another fallacy. If Texas Central goes bankrupt, any construction work that is completed could be purchased by another company, either to run Houston-Dallas passenger service or for different purposes altogether (e.g. freight service). I'm sure UP, BNSF or KCS would love to get a grade-separated corridor at a deep discount. Or it could simply be abandoned. In no case is the State of Texas or its taxpayers responsible for the railroad, unless they actively choose to accept responsibility - and even then the structures and earthworks could be used for other public uses like a trail or a highway, which would be subject to public approvals at every step along the way.
Or their biggest fear which is the line is a success, but not profitable enough for the private for-profit corporation, which would force the conservative state to face the fact that operating such service is actually a public good, regardless of huge profit returns. You know, like the highway system.
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  #247  
Old Posted Sep 16, 2019, 7:10 AM
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Texas Central high-speed rail project moves forward following RPA approval

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The Federal Railway Administration granted the Rule of Particular Applicability—or RPA—to Texas Central on Sept. 4 regarding the high-speed rail project slated to connect Dallas and Houston, according to a Sept. 4 press release from Texas Central.

This means the high-speed rail project is on track for both FRA actions—the RPA and the environmental permit—to be completed in 2020 with financial close and construction quickly following, according to the release.

RPAs are regulations that apply to a specific railroad or a specific type of operation to ensure a project’s safety, according to FRA information. This action, along with an environmental permit, is required before the project can be implemented.

“The FRA’s action on the Rule of Particular Applicability marks a major milestone in our quest to bring a transformative mobility solution, while minimizing impact on the environment and land use, as opposed to other options,” Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar said in the release. “We will meet or exceed all requirements the FRA mandates, to ensure we have the safest high-speed rail system in the world.”
Italian builder inked for high-speed rail project

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Although the first high-speed train ride between Houston and Dallas remains years away, a plan that would propel intrastate travel into the future continues to gain momentum.

Texas Central, a private company developing an electric high-speed railway between the state’s two largest cities, announced Friday it has signed a design-build agreement with Italian civil engineering contractor Salini Impregilo and its U.S. subsidiary, Lane Construction Company. The civil works contract, worth an estimated $14 billion, will include design and construction of the viaduct and embankment sections along the 240-mile route, installation of the track system and the alignment and construction of buildings that will house rail-system equipment.

“This agreement brings us one step closer to beginning construction of the civil infrastructure segments of the project,” Texas Central CEO Carlos F. Aguilar said in a statement released by the company. “Salini-Lane’s unmatched track record with rail infrastructure, and very specifically its world-class high-speed rail expertise across the globe, will be central to the completion of America’s first end-to-end high-speed rail system.”

According to a news release from the companies, Salini Impregilo has done business in more than 50 countries on five continents, having built more than 4,000 miles of railway infrastructure in the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.
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