HometownBrazos County


Debate over high-speed rail in Texas speeds up as legislation seeks transparency

Posted at 6:55 PM, May 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-10 16:46:02-04

UPDATE: Texas Central Rail Director of Right of Way Katie M. Barnes emailed 15ABC back on Wednesday, May 10 and said:

"Texas Central remains open for business under its new management, is continuing to seek further investment, and is moving forward with the development of this high-speed train.

We are not taking any meetings or interviews right now and do not have any additional information to share at this point beyond the statements above."

Walking inside of the Grimes County Justice Center, one goes through a metal detector and down a short hallway.

The door to the right reads 'County Judge'.

That's where Joe Fauth III works.

He sits at a desk with a bookshelf lined with binders to his left.

Judge Joe Fauth III showing HSR binder
Judge Joe Fauth III showing HSR binder

There's one that is visibly different than the others; it has significantly more papers stuffed inside.

"That's my biggest binder, that's high speed rail," Fauth said.

In all actuality, it's nine years worth of papers, documenting his fight against Texas Central Rail, a company that's working to connect Dallas to Houston with a high speed railway.

He was first alerted about the project in 2014 when a TCR spokesperson held a meeting that he attended.

He remembered the person making a comment about landowners being concerned about "bugs" and "bunnies" — a comment that didn't sit right with him.

"When I had the opportunity to speak, I said, your comment about bugs and bunnies is very demeaning to a number of these people that make their living out of agriculture," Fauth said.

He says it's his duty as a landowner himself and as someone who represents a county of ranchers to take a stand against the project.

"We're not against high speed rail," Fauth said.

"What we're against is the invasion into our property.”

47 miles of track cuts through Grimes County, it's the most concentrated mileage of the entire trip.

Judge Joe Fauth III showing TCR trip
Judge Joe Fauth III showing TCR trip

“This comes across as just being a bad project," Fauth admitted.

After a long fight for eminent domain, in 2022 the Texas Supreme Courtgranted it to TCR in a 5-3 decision.

“It really took away a lot of the rights of property owners in the state of Texas," Fauth said.

Since then, little progress was made.

Bryan Mayor Bobby Gutierrez, who initially supportedthe project in 2019 when he sat as the Board Chair of the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation, explained that he is "optimistically skeptical" of Texas Central Rail's future but hopes the push for high speed rail doesn't die.

”It seems like most of the stuff the funding has kind of fallen apart, and it's kind of gone by the wayside," Mayor Gutierrez said.

"We'd love to see high speed rail within our within our state within our country at some point,

That future is unknown because the company has yet to apply for a construction permit and Judge Fauth says it's nearly impossible to get in contact with them.

“Phone calls to the company go unanswered, un-returned mail and so forth," he explained at recent Transportation Committee hearing.

Now, Judge Fauth and other landowners are taking the issue to Austin and advocating their stance in front of lawmakers.

They hope HB2357 is passed — this is a bill that would provide transparency from the company.

The acting CEO of TCR also appeared before the committee.

Bui in front of Transportation Committee
Bui in front of Transportation Committee

"Our main concern is that this legislation is an attempt to stop the project," Michael Bui said.

"This bill specifically targets high speed rail, an industry that has not shown any unique risks to financial markets that would warrant such additional regulation."

"Let me tell you what unique risks it does pose," chairman Rep. Terry Canales responded.

"You hung this over this community's head — nobody knows what's going on. They've been trying to contact you, you haven't responded."

"I would tell you, you need to get your act together as a community, because this community has been suffering," he continued.

Bui explained that TCR did and continues to repsond to letters from attorneys representing landowners.

He also said that the company gets "emails from media, emails from homeowners associations" and that they do respond.

15ABC reached out via email and phone calls multiple times to Texas Central Rail and didn't hear back.

15ABC also reached out to the company's email and phone number that are listed on its website — that website hasn't been updated since 2020.