Texas Rail Advocates Executive Director Chris Lippincott testified today before the House Land and Resource Management Committee against Senate Bill 979 which could put limits on future high speed railroad projects. The bill relates to the disposition of real property intended for high-speed rail projects. TRA's concern is that the bill singles out high speed rail versus other forms of transportation. The bill has previously been voted out of the Texas Senate and the House hearing occurred today.
"For the record, my name is Chris Lippincott, I am the Executive Director of Texas Rail Advocates. TRA was formed in 2000 to educate and inform the public on the benefits of both freight and passenger rail service in Texas and the Southwest. We’re committed to advancing economic growth and enhancing our quality of life by supporting the development of rail service to its full potential as a carrier of freight and passengers across the state.
TRA is opposed to the committee substitute for Senate Bill 979. We are concerned that the bill is a threat to high-speed train service and potentially a threat to public transit, freight rail and other infrastructure projects statewide.
This bill singles out high-speed rail projects and could waive off private interest or outright kill projects serving our growing cities from the Metroplex all the way to the South Texas border.
Discouraging passenger train service for our growing cities would mean that millions of taxpayer dollars already spent on route studies may go to waste.
Worse, if we start drawing arbitrary lines on projects because of their speed or their finance instruments, it sends a chilling message to business and investment interests who want to bet on Texas.
Why wouldn’t they think that the proposal before you today could be expanded to included right-of-way for highway projects that serve their factories? Or freight rail lines that move agricultural goods? Or commuter rail projects serving the suburbs of Houston, Austin, and other Texas cities?
The state of Texas could not make it clearer that there is no appetite to invest TxDOT’s limited resources in train service. But what worries us is that proposals like this one will turn the Texas welcome mat for investment into a “Do Not Enter” sign.
Policies set forth decades ago have helped make possible more than 10,000 miles of freight track and more than 200 miles of passenger train infrastructure in Texas. These policies and our continued economic and population growth have now attracted new industries and opportunities to our state.
We are concerned that this bill would lower the high ceiling on our state’s future. TRA’s members are homeowners and business owners, too. Our concern is that singling out the exciting – and necessary – prospect of high-speed train service for special restriction could leave us fewer options to solve our state’s transportation problems.
Bringing our communities closer together and leaving the door open for new ideas represent the best notions of Texas in the 21stcentury. I hope you’ll keep those values in mind as you scrutinize this proposal."