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Six Brazos Valley counties join federal lawsuit to stop proposed Texas high speed rail project

The lawsuit seeks to stop the development of the rail project by voiding an environmental study finished in 2020, and two rules issued by the federal agency
A rendering of the high-speed train. (Texas Central Partners)
A rendering of the high-speed train. (Texas Central Partners)(KWTX)
Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 2:48 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KBTX) - Texans Against High Speed Rail, several landowners, and six Brazos Valley counties are suing the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in an attempt to stop a privately owned high-speed rail line from being built.

Texas Central has been working for years to obtain land and permission for their proposed high-speed rail line that would connect Houston and Dallas with a stop in the Brazos Valley. The lawsuit seeks to stop the development of the rail project by voiding an environmental study finished in 2020, and two rules issued by the federal agency.

When asked to comment on the lawsuit, Texas Central declined.

This lawsuit, filed April 14 in U.S. District Court, claims the FRA violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when it issued a Rule of Decision (ROD) approving a Rule of Particular Applicability (RPA) for the proposed high-speed rail project.

The plaintiffs claim when the FRA issued a March 2020 RPA to establish safety standards for the high-speed rail project, they based it on a 2017 draft environmental impact study. The plaintiffs say the 2017 draft study was only conducted to examine the impacts of constructing and operating the high-speed rail, not the safety standards set out in the RPA. The lawsuit further claims the FRA couldn’t have evaluated the impacts of the RPA in the two months between when it was released and the publication of the final environmental impact study in May 2020.

The lawsuit also mentions a July 2020 move by the Surface Transportation Board (STB), asserting its jurisdiction over the high-speed rail project and denying Texas Central’s request to bypass the full application process required of new rail lines. The board issued a decision that Texas Central could not start any construction unless a full application was approved.

The lawsuit asks the court to vacate the ROD and RPA, declare both void for all purposes, and issue an injunction against using the ROD, RPA, or final environmental impact study for any purpose. It also asks the court to prohibit the FRA or USDOT from any NEPA process until Texas Central submits a full application to the STB.

The landowners in this lawsuit have property in Ellis, Grimes, Harris, Limestone, Madison, and Waller counties. Freestone, Grimes, Leon, Madison, Navarro, and Waller counties are also named plaintiffs.

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