Posts Tagged ‘Texas high-speed rail’

Texas Central Project Prospects Remain Cloudy

June 28, 2022

Would-be high-speed rail operator Texas Central Railroad may have won the battle of courtrooms over its right to use eminent domain but it remains to be seen if the plans for the Dallas-Houston service will continue to move forward.

The Texas Supreme Court last week upheld the authority of Texas Central to exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire property.

That means Texas Central will be able to acquire land needed to complete its proposed 240-mile rail corridor by paying fair market rates for the property it wants to seize.

It also ended a legal battle waged by property owners along the proposed route that began in 2020 when they challenged the legal right of TCR to use eminent domain.

But two weeks ago Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar resigned his position and the Texas Central board of directors has been disbanded.

Nonetheless, an attorney representing Texas Central in the court proceedings sent a letter to the court saying Texas Central is under new management and continues to seek funding for its plans.

In announcing his resignation, Aguilar suggested there have been internal disagreements at Texas Central.

Writing on social media site LinkedIN, Aguilar said he “could not align our current stakeholders on a common vision for a path forward.”

Texas Supreme Court Sides With Texas Central

June 27, 2022

The Texas Supreme Court last week ruled in favor of Texas Central, which wants to establish a high-speed passenger train service between Dallas and Houston.

The court thus rejected the argument of a property owner located along the proposed route that Texas Central is not a “common carrier” as defined by Texas law.

Landowner James Miles has waged a years-long legal battle to stop Texas Central.

Miles had appealed to the high court after a state appeals court ruled in favor of Texas Central.

The Texas Supreme Count found there was no dispute that Texas Central that Texas Central was created for the purpose of establishing an intercity electric railway operation and had been engaged in activities in furtherance of that purpose.

The primary consequence of the court action is that Texas Central Railway qualifies as an interurban electric railway and can exercise eminent domain authority to acquire land for its proposed right of way.

Construction of the proposed rail line remains far from certain, though, as Texas Central continues to seek funding for its proposed operation.

Texas Central Signs Contract with Redfre

July 21, 2021

Texas Central recently signed a contract with Renfe to be the early operator of a proposed high-speed rail route between Dallas and Houston.

Renfe will work with Texas Central on the design and development of the commercial aspects of the high-speed rail system as well as provide expertise and support, Texas Central officials said in a news release.

That will include advisory and consulting services to Texas Central on final design, execution, construction, testing and commissioning of civil, station and buildings, installation, core systems and operations and maintenance technology and plans and processes, as well as all commercial aspects of the high-speed rail system.

Based in Spain, Renfe manages 5,000 trains daily on 7,500 miles of track.

The news release did not disclose the financial terms of the contract.

The announces comes a couple of weeks after Texas Central announced it has named the multinational firm Webuild to lead the civil construction consortium that will build the passenger line.

Webuild will be responsible for all work up to the top of the rail, including viaducts, embankments and drainage.

Lawsuit Will Seek to Halt Texas Rail Line

April 15, 2021

A Texas county has joined a lawsuit seeking to block Texas Central from building a high-speed rail line in the Lone Star state.

Commissioners in Navarro County have retained a Dallas law firm, which has agreed to represent the county at no cost in a multi-party suit including several other counties.

The lawsuit is expected to be brought against the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration over an environmental impact study related to the project.

STB Rules Texas Central is an Interstate Operation

July 18, 2020

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board this week decided that a proposed high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston is part of the interstate rail network and thus falls under the board’s jurisdiction.

The decision reversed a July 2016 ruling in which the board said Texas Central lacked concrete plans for a connection with Amtrak or any other interstate rail passenger carrier.

In this week’s decision the STB said the circumstances had changed substantially since the 2016 ruling.

One of those changes is that Texas Central has established an agreement with Amtrak that would allow passengers to purchase a single ticket for transportation on both carriers.

The STB, however, denied Texas Central’s request that it be exempted from the STB’s approval prior to building and operating the new rail line.

“Should Texas Central seek board authority to construct and operate its high-speed passenger-rail project, it may do so by filing an application,” the STB said.

Texas Central Opponents Try New Argument

June 20, 2020

A group seeking to thwart development of the Texas Central line high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas is trying to take advantage of planned Amtrak service reductions as a new way to attack the project.

The opponents of the Texas Central project are citing Amtrak plans to reduce the frequency of operation of long-distance trains as a rational to hinder if not kill the project.

They are calling for Texas Central to submit new ridership projections to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board because connecting service by Amtrak may be sharply reduced if not eliminated.

They cited the letter sent May 25 from Amtrak CEO William Flynn to Congress saying that long-distance routes are at risk unless Congress approves a $1.4 billion supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 2021 on top of the carrier’s funding request.

The foes say connections with Amtrak were part of the rational for Texas Central to receive federal funding because that would make it part of the U.S. interstate passenger rail network.

In response, Texas Central said that whatever actions that Amtrak might take in regards to its long-distance service to Texas is irrelevant.

It noted that it plans to begin service in 2026, six years after the COVID-19 crisis.

Texas Central also said that it will need a three-year period to reach the long term through-passenger volumes projected by Amtrak’s proprietary ridership model.

It also said that Amtrak has said it hopes to restore service quickly, possibly as soon as the summer and has not said coronavirus-driven declines would last five years beyond Fiscal 2021.

FRA Releases Final EIS of Texas High-Speed Route

May 30, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has released the final environmental impact statement for the proposed Dallas-Houston high-speed rail line.

The review concludes with a draft plan issued in 2017 that building alternative A is preferred and there are no red flags that could stop the project.

However, the review said Texas Central, the company that plans to build and operate the service, will have to pay to relocate 12 businesses and 49 homes on the 240-mile route.

The review said the service is expected to shift 26 percent of travelers in the Dallas-Houston corridor off the highways and divert 2 percent from air travel while generating $14 billion of dollars in economic benefits between the time construction begins and 2040.

Other expected benefits of the project include an increase in property values, a $7.8 million annual increase in property tax revenue and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The FRA is accepting public comment on the study.

Texas Landowner May Appeal Case State High Court in Bid to Thwart Texas Central Plan

May 23, 2020

A Texas landowner seeking to block Texas Central from surveying his land for a planned high-speed rail service has vowed to take his fight to the Texas Surpeme Court.

James Miles contends that Texas Central is not an actual railroad, a claim that was rejected earlier this month by a state appeals court.

The appeals court ruled that not only is Texas Central a railroad but it also an interurban electric railway.

Miles has until July 22 to appeal the ruling against him and there is no guarantee the Texas high court will agree to accept his appeal.

At the center of Miles’ argument is his contention of the meaning of the word “operating” in Texas law.

He has argued that because Texas Central is not yet operating that it is not a railroad under Texas law because it does not have track and stations that would give the outward appearance of a functioning railroad.

The appeals court rejected that argument, citing another law approved by the Texas legislature saying that for purposes of interpreting states statues that court are to read “words in the present tense [to] include the future tense.”

An appellate judge in rejecting Miles appeal said that to accept his argument would mean the courts were ignoring a stated legislative intent.

The judge acknowledged that Texas Central does not yet have railroad infrastructure in place but it has taken steps to create and operate a railroad in the future.

Court Rules Texas Central is a Railroad

May 10, 2020

A Texas appeals court has ruled that Texas Central Railway is for legal purposes a railroad and an interurban electric railway.

The decision, written by Justice Nora Longoria of the Thirteen District Court of Appeals, overturned a lower court ruling and sent that case back to that court for further review.

Justice Logoria said the lower court erred when it concluded Texas Central was not a railroad because it is not yet operating trains or acting like a railroad in doing such things as land surveys or claiming the potential to exercise eminent domain.

“Considering the legislature’s instruction to view present tense as including future tense in the statute and the actions taken by appellants to begin to operate a railroad, we conclude that TCRI [Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure, Inc.] and ITL [Integrated Texas Logistics, Inc.] are railroad companies,” Justice Longoria wrote in a 20-page opinion filed on May 7.

The case began when a land owner, James Miles, objected to a request by Texas Central to survey his land as a potential route for its proposed Dallas-Houston high-speed rail line.

Miles and other land owners in Leon County took Texas Central to court and raised the question of whether it was an actual railroad that would have the power of eminent domain.

“To the extent that Miles contends that this statute does not extend to high-speed rails, but rather was intended for ‘localized, electronic trolley-car companies of a century ago,’ we find nothing in the statute to confirm this assertion,” Justice Longoria wrote about the assertion that Texas Central was not a interurban railway.

The Federal Railroad Administration is expected to release a final environmental impact statement on the project later this month.

Texas Lawmakers Seek to Kill High-Speed Rail

April 13, 2020

Opponents of a high-speed rail line in Texas are trying a different tactic to thwart the project.

Some two dozen state lawmakers have written to the U.S. Department of Transportation to ask it to kill the project.

Their letter contends that Texas Central Partners lacks the financial resources and expertise needed to continue with the project.

“To proceed otherwise would be an inexcusable waste of taxpayer dollars and jeopardizes the integrity of the rule-making process at the Federal Railroad Administration,” the letter said.

The FRA is currently reviewing the project and Texas Central expects to receive approval this year for a rule of particular applicability that would allow it to operate on shared right of way with freight railroads.

Some Texas lawmakers have opposed the project from the start but have failed in their efforts to ban it in the state legislature.

Texas Central has proposed building a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston.

In an unrelated development, construction work continues in California on building a high-speed rail line in the central region of the state.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some work methods have changed.

Workers have engaged in social distancing by holding smaller safety meetings each day and where possible increasing the physical distance between workers.

Workers also have been allowed to take voluntary furloughs, or leave on a given day if they feel unsafe about possible exposure from a co-worker.