Brazos Valley high-speed rail opponents take fight to Texas Capitol

KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 10:58 PM CDT
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ROANS PRAIRIE, Texas (KBTX) - Opponents of the proposed 240-mile high-speed train that would connect Houston and Dallas and pass through Brazos Valley communities brought their fight to the Texas State Capitol.

Texans Against High-Speed Rail, a group consisting of more than 70 property owners and local leaders, traveled to the statehouse on Tuesday to lobby lawmakers in their ongoing efforts to protect property rights and prevent the proposed high-speed train project from moving forward. They went door-to-door to every senator and representative, voicing their concerns.

Since 2015, the group has been advocating for the protection of property owner’s rights, and they are currently urging lawmakers to support five bills that aim to provide oversight, prevent eminent domain abuse, and safeguard Texans’ property rights.

Among the local leaders speaking out about the group’s efforts is Grimes County Judge Joe Fauth III.

“We feel as citizens and elected leaders throughout the county, the counties, we have an obligation to stand up for our landowners, our citizens,” Fauth said.

Fauth emphasized the group’s obligation to stand up for citizens and landowners in the affected counties. He is pushing for the five bills aimed at providing oversight and preventing eminent domain abuse. Fauth clarified that the opposition is not against high-speed trains, but against the way Texas Central Railroad is handling the project.

“Texans Against High-Speed Rail, we’re not really against high-speed rail we’re against this project, how it was brought forth, and how TCR, Texas Central Rail, has not been truthful through the process,” Fauth said.

Texans Against High-Speed Rail showcased a number of bills that, in their view, would safeguard Texas, its natural resources and the rights of private property owners concerning high-speed rail initiatives.

The proposed bills include House Bill 366, authored by (R) House District 3 Representative Cecil Bell, which requires private high-speed rail operators to provide a bond to restore any property to its original condition if the service ends.

Under Bill 2357, authored by (R) House District 15 Representative Steve Toth and (R) House District 8 Representative Cody Harris, rail operators would have to disclose their funding and financing methods for projects on a yearly basis.

House Bill 3870 sponsored by (R) House District 8 Representative Cody Harris, would grant the original property owners the right to repurchase the property for the original sale price if the high-speed rail project is canceled or remains unused for more than 10 years.

HB 2391 authored by (R) House District 10 Representative Brian Harrison, would limit the power of private entities to use eminent domain for the development or operation of high-speed rail projects, as defined in specific sections of the Transportation Code.

Finally, House Bill 4551, introduced by (R) House District 12 Representative Kyle Kacal, aims to prevent high-speed rail projects that could harm the quality of drinking water, surface water, or groundwater in Texas.

Representative Kacal emphasized Texas’ status as a private property state and the importance of protecting property owners along the train route and across the state.

“Texas is a private property state and being a private property state has always served us well. It’s put us in the position we are to have this incredible economy that we’re blessed to have,” Kacal said. “We’ve had their back from day one. We continue to do that and we will see how this progresses. Obviously when you have a state and federal laws that are conflicting a little bit here. We’re going to have to stay diligent and work this issue through the entire session.”

Judge Fauth and other officials are hopeful that the proposed bills will receive support and prevent the high-speed train project from moving forward.