December 20, 2016 - TRA Newswire -
Texas Central Railway will go to trial July 3 in Harris County, seeking a permanent ruling to conduct land surveys for the Dallas to Houston bullet train project. A Houston area property owner claimed that Texas Central did not have the authority to survey across his land and was not a proper railroad. In order to complete processes required by the Federal Railroad Administration, Texas Central must fully document the route and that includes land surveys. Texas Central had asked for a summary judgement in the matter but state District Judge Joseph "Tad" Halbach, who was defeated for re-election in November and leaves the court at the end of December, did not issue a ruling on summary judgement and instead punted the issue to a full trial in 2017.
In a statement issued by Texas Central, the company indicated that “We’re disappointed in the court’s decision to go to trial and we believe our arguments will prevail there. The judge’s two-sentence decision only declined the company’s request for summary judgment, meaning the debate will be heard before a full trial. Contrary to what opponents are saying, he did not issue any opinion on the company’s operations or its rights under state law."
Texas Central' s statement also indicated tha "the decision does not set any kind of precedent, and we will show in a full trial that state law, established for more than a century, clearly gives railroad companies the right to conduct land surveys without interference. This is needed to determine the most advantageous high-speed train route. We will demonstrate that in the trial and look forward to our day in court, scheduled July 3", according to the statement. "Meanwhile, we will continue to work with landowners in a direct and respectful manner as the project moves ahead as planned.”
Texas Central is developing a 240 mile long high-speed train that will connect North Texas, the Brazos Valley and Houston, using proven, world-class technology. The ompany says that the 90-minute trip will provide a safe, reliable, affordable and productive transportation alternative. The company’s market-led approach is backed by private investors, not government grants, a new business model for infrastructure advances. Texas Central and its affiliated entities will be responsible for the system’s design, finance, construction, operation and maintenance. Previous statements indicated that the company would not take any state or federal subsidies.
A group called Texans Against High Speed Rail posted on their Facebook page today that the ruling from Judge Halbach meant that Texas Central was not a railroad and does not have eminent domain authority. Austin attorney Craig Enoch, a former Texas Supreme Court justice took issue with TAHSR's statement. “The statements in the news release from Texans Against High-Speed Rail do not pass legal and factual scrutiny. The judge did not issue a final ruling on Texas Central's status as a railroad company or its power of eminent domain. The court makes no decision on Texas Central operating as a bona fide railroad company. The trial will determine these issues, not this preliminary hearing. according to Enoch”.
Expected to be built by 2022, the bullet train would be the first truly high speed line in the U.S., linking two of the top 10 metropolitan regions in the country. The project is expected to create 10,000 construction jobs during the build-out and help redevelop neglected areas of South Dallas and Northwest Houston.