Texas bullet train moves forward but opposition still remains

Posted at 7:42 PM, Dec 20, 2017
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:31:18-04

The Texas bullet train project is continuing to move forward after the Federal Railroad Administration released a draft environmental impact statement last week.

The 240-mile high-speed passenger rail, proposed by Texas Central, would allow passengers to travel from Dallas to Houston in less than 90 minutes with a midway strop in Grimes County.

However, several Central Texas counties that would be one the preferred route the federal agency highlighted in the report, are still opposed to it.

Commissioners from Grimes, Limestone, Leon and Navarro Counties have passed resolutions in the last few years against the proposal. At least one Limestone County landowner, who Texas Central has contacted to buy her family land, said she is not selling.

“This is my grandparents' property and before they died they said they wanted us to have a place we could call home. This is our home,” Annitta Dobbs said.

In addition, the 51-year-old said it would affect her EMS service, which is located on that property.

“I would have to close my business down. It doesn't just affect me personally. It affects my business. It affects the people I employ, all the people I serve,” Dobbs said.

According to Texas Central Managing Director of External Holly Reed, 30 percent of the land needed has already been secured and the company plans to continue negotiations with those impacted.

"Our choice is to work with the landowners directly and come to a personalized agreement with each one. If that doesn't come to fruition, we will have to go through the court process,” Reed said.

The use of eminent domain by a private company is one of the reasons county officials from Navarro and Leon counties are against the project.

“The train will be taken a lot of people’s land and people around here covet their land. They’ve had their land for many generations and they don’t want to give their land up,” Leon County Byron Ryder said.

He added there wouldn’t be any benefits to his county having a bullet train that doesn’t have a stop there.

However, Reed said those counties would see an economic benefit from having the high-speed rail go through the area.

“Because this is not a government project, we will pay taxes to every county, every school district, every hospital district that the project goes through so there's a direct impact on the county budgets,” Reed said.

She added it will add 10,000 jobs every year during the construction of it. Furthermore, she said when it is completed, Texans would benefit from having the safest way to travel in the world in the state.

"Relieving congestion and making sure that Texans have a choice on how they travel for a safe, reliable way to get from Dallas to Houston,” Reed said.

The draft of the report states there is a need for a high-speed rail as an alternative transportation mode.

“Previous passenger rail studies completed by FRA and TXDOT support the need for reliable multimodal transportation alternative to promote congestion relief strategies,” the draft stated.

However, Dobbs is still not convinced about giving up her land for it.

“This is my life. This is my home. Just think if they try to kick you out of your home. This is the only life I’ve known,” Dobbs said.

Residents can comment on the draft for 60 days starting next Friday, which will end on February 20, 2018. The FRA will also hold 10 public hearings in the affected counties.

Texas Central said if everything goes well, construction could start at the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019.

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