Bills targeting Texas Central before Lone Star State legislature

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AUSTIN, Texas — Several bills limiting high speed rail projects have been approved by the Texas State Senate Transportation subcommittee and are expected to be considered by the state legislature this session.

The bills are aimed at preventing construction of the Texas Central Railway, a private venture to build a 240-mile high speed route between Dallas and Houston. The prospect of 90-minute service between the two major cities has found support in urban areas, but has faced stiff opposition from rural landowners in central Texas who object to the railroad's potential use of eminent domain powers.

So far, the railroad has worked with landowners to secure the property needed, One of the bills, Senate Bill 979, proposed by State Sen. Charles Schwerter, would outlaw high speed rail projects using eminent domain. Schwerter also proposed Senate Bill 977, which prevents the state from allocating any funds to private rail projects. Texas Central’s detractors have also been critical of the company’s intentions to privately fund the project and believe that eventually the taxpayers will foot part of the bill. Texas Central should “put their money where their mouth is,” Schwerter told the Austin-American Statesman newspaper.

Perhaps most contentious, though, is Senate Bill 981, proposed by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst. If passed, the bill would mandate that the technology used by private rail products are compatible with more than one type of technology. The bill is allegedly designed to make it easier for a different company to take over operations on the Texas Central should the company cease operations, but the text does little to define compatibility or specify exactly which aspects must be operable on other railroad networks.

Executives with the Texas Central Railway say they're frustrated that the project had been specifically targeted by the legislature.

“We are asking to be treated like any other company investing in Texas, creating thousands of jobs and building a major infrastructure project — all without taking government grants,” railroad company officials say in a news release. “We need to keep Texas open for business and attractive to entrepreneurs willing to invest in the state’s future.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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