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Texas Central Railroad granted eminent domain by Texas Supreme Court

Posted at 11:27 PM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 00:27:44-04

LEON COUNTY, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court sided with Texas Central railroad company on Friday, affirming that the company does have the right to take land from property owners through eminent domain.

More than five years ago, Leon County couple James and Barbara Miles took Texas Central to court, claiming the newly established high-speed rail project did not have eminent domain to split their 600 acres in half, taking a portion of that property to build tracks.

The Mileses have insisted that Texas Central is not a real railroad company or inter-urban electric railway - two types of entities historically granted eminent domain rights in Texas.

"They are a high-speed rail – that’s what they intend to construct," said Patrick McShan, a lawyer representing the Miles family. "The problem for them is the legislature did not grant eminent domain to high-speed rail companies. So they don’t want to be what they are, but want to be one of these other two things and shoehorn themselves in these other two things with eminent domain.”

Yet Friday, the courts sided with Texas Central.

"Most people are initially surprised to hear about authorizations for private companies to exercise eminent domain, but this has actually been accepted for a couple of centuries," said Dr. James Rogers, political science professor for Texas A&M.

Texas Central’s Houston partnership issued this statement in response to the ruling.

“We have been and remain proponents of Texas central railroad’s project to link Houston with Dallas via high-speed passenger rail, and we applaud the Texas Supreme Court decision that acknowledges Texas law on eminent domain and will enable the project to advance.”

In its opinion statement, the court explained that Texas Central has taken good-faith steps towards legitimizing its existence as a full-fledged railroad company, including the spending of over $125 million, the hiring of consultants, and the contracting of hundreds of properties.

Texas Rail Advocates president Peter LeCody, who has long been supportive of the Texas Central project, had this to say on the matter:

"Imagine a start-up company that wanted to build a pipeline, a new electric utility to provide power or a new cable or telephone company that required eminent domain authority," he is quoted on the nonprofit's website. "They would be shut out because they didn't yet have a pipe in the ground or wire on a pole. Doesn't that send a chilling message that we don't want you to do business in Texas?"

As hundreds of Texans in the Brazos Valley and beyond have already been pushed to sell their land, opponents of the project note that Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar resigned earlier this month, and that board member Drayton McLane Jr. quietly pulled out of the company last year – signs that the Miles family and many others believe show that the company is set to fail.