Legislation that would essentially kill a proposed “bullet train” between Houston and Dallas remains stuck in committee.
House Bill 2104 would require private companies building high-speed rail lines to file a bond to cover the cost of returning land bought for the project back to its previous use if service ever stops.
House Bill 2163 would require the bullet train tracks running through Dallas, Ellis, Waller and Harris counties be built 40 feet high to allow movement of people, livestock and other animals and also to restrict development.
House Bill 2167 would prevent the state from spending any money on a privately owned high-speed rail project until it secured an interest in or lien on the operating company’s property or other assets.
House Bill 2172 would prevent legislators from spending state funds to plan, build, maintain or operate a privately owned high-speed rail line. That is the companion legislation to Senate Bill 977, which the upper chamber passed last month.
Some argue the $12 billion, 240-mile project by Texas Central Partners has become an urban versus rural issue over taxpayer funding and use of eminent domain.
“Private property rights are the same whether you have an urban area or a rural area,” says Grimes County Judge Ben Leman who also chairs the group Texans Against High Speed Rail. “And taxpayer subsidy, it is inevitable this project will fail to meet its financial obligation.”
“They are going after taxpayer backed loans and bonds, they've announced they will agressively pursue those and so the taxpayer will be on the hook,” he says. “The question is, whether you are urban or rural, do you want to pay for that? Does the ridership justify it?”
Others argue the real opposition to high-speed rail comes from Big Oil and the airlines.
“It is not the oil companies and Southwest Airlines who are behind the opposition,” says Leman. “It is literally independent grassroots citizens.”
The project meantime, is still going through environmental review.