Legal experts say latest threat of action against Texas Central could finally lead to answers

Attorneys say residents and landowners have suffered long enough and should be allowed to move on with their lives if the project is no longer going to happen.
KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 9:46 PM CDT
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WALLER, Texas (KBTX) -Attorneys representing 93 property owners across nine Texas counties are hoping to get answers and closure for their clients. They want answers about the future of the proposed Texas Central 240-mile high-speed train from Houston to Dallas with a stop in the Brazos Valley.

Attorneys representing the property owners sent a letter Thursday to the rail company seeking answers to questions like the status of the project, the start date for construction, how they’re paying the bills, and who’s running the company that seems to no longer hold a physical mailbox.

Attorneys plan to get the answers to those questions and many more through a legal process called a Rule 202 Deposition.

“If Texas Central is unwilling to publicly state that it no longer intends to construct the Project or, alternatively, provide full and complete answers to the questions above, we intend to file a Rule 202 petition to investigate potential claims against Texas Central. The record upon which the Texas Supreme Court recently granted Texas Central eminent domain authority was restricted to August 2018. Four years have passed, and in those four years new facts have developed, many of which are set forth in this letter,” the letter said. “These new facts demonstrate that Texas Central no longer has any intention of constructing the Project. We do not intend to relitigate the eminent domain issues the Texas Supreme Court recently decided. Rather, we intend to investigate, based on the facts and circumstances as they exist today, whether Texas Central is, in fact, planning to construct and operate an interurban electric railway.”

Terrance Dill Jr is senior counsel for West Webb Allbritton & Gentry PC, a College Station law firm that specializes in civil litigation and real estate law. He says these types of court filings are used to preserve witness testimony for an anticipated or potential suit.

“It sounds like the attorneys for the landowners are trying to get a commitment under oath from the railroad company as to what they are specifically going to do,” said Dill. “When you obtain deposition testimony under oath then it’s subject to Texas law regarding perjury so the witness in the deposition could not lie or tell a material falsehood or you could be subject to some severe penalties.”

Attorneys say residents and landowners have suffered long enough and should be allowed to move on with their lives if the project is no longer going to happen.

Lawyers for the landowners say with no clear leadership in place at Texas Central, combined with what they call a “hibernation phase in search of financing” leads them to believe Texas Central is no longer pursuing construction of the project. Carlos Aguilar, president, and CEO of Texas Central announced his departure from the company on the Social Media Platform LinkedIn earlier this year.

Waller County Judge Trey Duhon says it’s beyond time for Texas Central to make its true intentions known, not just to landowners but the public in general.

If they have a plan then let’s hear it. Let’s find out what that plan is,” said Duhon.

Duhon says one of the most frustrating parts of this situation is the silence from Texas Central.

“We can’t get any answers, you know the phone’s disconnected, the lights are off but somehow mysteriously we still get bits and pieces here and there that everything’s moving forward which it doesn’t make any sense,” Duhon said. “People should not have to live under a cloud for years upon years and it affects the resale value of their land, whither they should be getting premium price or somebody’s going to try and discount them.”

Whether or not Texas Central answers landowners’ questions or complies with the potential Rule 202 Deposition remains unseen, but until then Duhon says advocates and local officials will continue to fight for the rights of property owners.

“Right now everything points to this being dead in the water and they just don’t want to admit that it’s actually dead,” said Duhon. “Even when you cut the head off of a snake you can still get bitten and we are very careful right now. We’re watching every move that they make on the state and federal level and we’re going to continue to do that until this is officially dead and gone.”

The full letter sent to Texas Central can be found below.

KBTX reached out to the attorneys and Texas Central for comment but did not receive a reply.