Local sheriffs concerned about public safety along proposed bullet train route

GRIMES COUNTY, Tex. (KBTX) - Sheriffs representing counties along the proposed high speed rail route say they're concerned with public safety.

Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell says he met with the sheriffs representing Navarro, Freestone, Limestone, Leon, Madison, Waller, and Ellis counties. The Coalition of Sheriffs formed over their concerns.

Sowell says they talked about how the train will affect public safety, including slowing down response times, especially during construction and higher crime rates as more people come to their communities.

Sowell says they have yet to be contacted by anyone with Texas Central, the company in charge of the project.

"I don't know why it's come to this because none of us are that hard to find," said Sowell.

Madison County Sheriff Travis Neeley is also looking for answers.

"No one has done a survey on what kind of emergency personnel we have. What do the fire departments look like on the west side of the county, and they haven't been over to look at the hospital," said Neeley.

Neeley says he's also worried about who's responsible for patrolling the train and the cost to citizens if they have to increase their patrols.

"Who's going to be responsible for hazmat emergency services if it derailed over there," said Neeley.

Texas Central managing director Holly Reed recently sent out this statement: "Over the past several weeks, Texas Central has contacted the county judges and commissioners in all of the counties where the Texas Bullet Train will be running. The company has provided updated information about the project and answered questions on the Federal Railroad Administration's recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

That federal report said the Houston-to-North Texas train would alleviate the strain on the state's existing infrastructure and is needed to accommodate growing demands.

That outlines more details and now that the FRA has begun work on its final review, required before construction, Texas Central has asked to meet with all top county leaders to discuss access, safety and other issues. Texas Central looks forward to moving ahead on these meetings with the county officials, law enforcement, first responders and others.

Working together, the project will help train first responders all along the 240-mile route and familiarize emergency responders with all aspects of the train operation. Texas Central will identify any resource and coordination gaps that may need to be filled, including a need for staging areas, emergency response equipment and other areas where needs dictate.

The additional equipment and training provided by Texas Central will be available to serve residents and communities along the route every day of the year, around the clock."