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Texas Central says path is clear to develop high-speed rail after SCOTX decision

Texans Against High-Speed Rail call the decision “a slap in the face to Texas landowners”
Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 11:13 PM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (KBTX) - The Texas Supreme Court declined to review a case Friday that challenged whether or not Texas Central is legally recognized as a railroad company under state law.

The company says that decision paves the way for them to use eminent domain to develop their proposed high-speed rail project and should put an end to over five years of contentious litigation.

“We always have said that we will be responsible in our actions with stakeholders, landowners, residents of the counties the train will go through, etc.,” Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar said. “We will always keep that front of mind.”

Peter LeCody is the president of Texas Rail Advocates. He says by denying the review, the state supreme court has affirmed that Texas Central is an actual railroad.

“They haven’t bought a railcar yet. They haven’t bought any track. But then again, if you’re an electric utility and you haven’t put up the first pole yet for a high-tension powerline, are you not considered an electric utility?” LeCody said. “I think it kind of falls under the same type of thing.”

Texans Against High-Speed Rail is an organization that wants to see an end to the high-speed rail project. They say the decision is a slap in the face to Texas landowners and point to the fact only seven of the nine justices voted on the 4-3 ruling. One recused herself due to a conflict of interest, while another recently resigned to seek another position elsewhere.

“We’re terribly disappointed. The Supreme Court of Texas has stated on numerous occasions about how important it was to protect the property rights of landowners in Texas. It’s what our constitution is founded on,“ Texans Against High-Speed Rail Special Litigation Counsel Blake Beckham said. “It’s not green. It’s not environmental. It’s a taxpayer boondoggle, and it’s going to cost Texas citizens lots of money.”

“We do not want to get to the extreme of forcing eminent domain, but if that comes to be, that’s something that we’ll have to do,” Aguilar said. “We are developing an asset that would be of great value to the region. Bryan-College Station is an area that will benefit greatly from this, and we want to incorporate that into the community.”

Getting the green light on funding from a board in Washington is the next step for Texas Central. Once that hurdle is cleared, LeCody says the company can begin construction on the project within a matter of months.

“This is going to be the ultimate deciding pattern that Texas Central has got to do,” LeCody said. “Once the Surface Transportation Board gives them the green light, they can certainly start their construction.”

“The timeline will depend on what it is that we can negotiate in the terms of the initial funding,” Aguilar said. “I foresee that once you get the longer-term commitments circled, that will allow us to raise some bridge funding that would allow us to execute faster.”

Meanwhile, Texans Against High-Speed Rail are filing a motion to rehear the case with the state supreme court. Beckham also says the federal government filed a motion to dismiss another lawsuit Tuesday that Texans Against HSR filed against them regarding the environmental review of the high-speed rail project.

“The federal government completely short-armed the effort. They ignored all of the objections. I guess they were trying to help Texas Central speed this through,” Beckham said. “Texas Central underestimated the will of Texas landowners to stop a project like this. We think they’re going to lose. We think it’s wrong. We think it’s shameful that they filed the motion, and we look forward to prevailing on that case in federal court. There are numerous ways to stop this project.”

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