Tuesday morning, the Texas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments that may decide the fate of the Texas Central Railway (TCR) Dallas to Houston high speed rail project.
This legal challenge by a Leon County landowner, James Miles, is the latest in an ongoing round of legal battles that Texas Central has had to face in developing the 240-mile long bullet train project over the past decade. While there is strong bi-partisan support in North Texas and in the Greater Houston region, there has been constant pushback from a handful of very vocal state and federal legislators and some landowners in the counties between the two mega-regions.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office has even jumped into the fray along with the landowner, filing a brief with the Texas Supreme Court. The gist of the argument is that since TCR has not yet purchased railcars or laid any track that they can not be considered a railroad eligible to use eminent domain powers. Last year the Thirteenth Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi upheld Texas Central's rights as a railroad and the Texas Supremes agreed. However, in a very unusual move, the high court decided to rehear the issue this week.
An Amicus Brief was filed Monday in support of Texas Central's rights. The Friend of the Court brief was advanced by the Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas Citizens Council and Texas Rail Advocates.
In the brief, Texas Rail Advocates points out that TRA consistently advocates for the Texas rail system as a critical component of ensuring that the State continues to enjoy a thriving economy, safely connecting industries, ports, and individuals without requiring construction of new highways or contributing to congestion on existing highways. Improving passenger rail access in Texas will promote economic development, enhance the State’s competitiveness in national and international markets, and improve travel mobility for all Texans. Those benefits are magnified by Texas Central’s high‐speed rail line connecting Houston and Dallas, which will put Texas at the cutting edge of high‐tech infrastructure development.
Quoting from the filed brief, the question whether Texas Central possesses the power of eminent domain is a straightforward matter of applying plain statutory text. The Legislature has expressly granted eminent‐domain authority, among other powers, to corporations, like Texas Central, that are “chartered for the purpose of constructing, acquiring, maintaining, or operating lines of electric railway between municipalities in this state.”