December 6, 2018 - TRA Commentary -

There continues to be misinformation regarding the railroad industry in Texas and we’ve been hearing more inaccuracies lately about the regulations that a soon-to-be-built bullet train line between Dallas and Houston is required to follow.

There is one anti-rail, anti-growth organization and several elected officials that would rather kill a railroad project to link the two largest population centers of the state than understand that our growing population needs multi-modal solutions to move our people and goods in the future. Highways alone will not solve our widening transportation problems.

It’s important to know there is a long established, robust framework of regulatory oversight for railroads operating in Texas today. There are dozens of railroads operating in Texas – from those very large like Union Pacific and BNSF and Amtrak to shorter haul short-line railroads, and in the future we expect to see high-speed passenger trains like other countries around the globe have had for decades.

To clear the fog of disinformation, here’s the legislation that regulates the movement of people and goods by rail:

Section 111 of the Texas Transportation Code grants the Texas Department of Transportation the full authority to regulate railroads to the extent that they do not preempt federal regulations. There will either be regulation by the Surface Transportation Board and the Federal Railroad Administration or the Texas Department of Transportation pursuant to Section 111 of the Texas Transportation Code.

There is also selective memory in some anti-rail, anti-growth circles when it comes to the railroad industry and eminent domain. Section 112.053 of the Texas Transportation Code provides the power of eminent domain for railroad companies and Section 131.012 also provides the power of eminent domain for interurban electric railway companies.

Texas has long granted eminent domain authority to railroads and interurban electric railways, such as Texas Central the developer of the high-speed train connecting Houston and Dallas, as well as pipeline companies, communications companies, electric power companies and other industries that provide the infrastructure necessary to serve the public efficiently and to enjoy a healthy economy.

This thorough and clear regulatory structure in addition to the statutes and rules at the federal level including those from the Federal Railroad Administration have set the stage for successful construction and operation of railroads.

Bridging the last two centuries, the transportation network created by railroads brought prosperity to Texas and allowed for the free movement of people and goods.

It’s a disservice to the railroad industry to forget that.