The idea of high speed rail is taking the world of Texas transportation by storm, but not everyone is in favor.
Texas Central Railway is a private company hoping to build a 240-mile long train line between Houston and Dallas. Its goal is a means of transportation able to travel between the two cities in less than 90 minutes.
The company, however, has run into opposition from interest groups such as the Reason Foundation and Texans Against High Speed Rail. As a result, Texas Central has released a “Rumor vs. Reality” section on its website.
Blake Beckham, board member and special litigation counsel for Texans Against High Speed Rail, told Newsmax that one of the organization’s major problems with the rail is the potential route: it cuts through large parcels of private property. The organization believes that Texas Central could abuse eminent domain powers in a big way.
Beckham, himself a landowner in rural Texas, told us he began fighting the rail line because it cut through his property.
In a press release published in February 2017, Texas Central reported that “about 30 percent of parcels estimated to be needed for the entire project” have been contracted through their land option program. The program provides compensation for owners today in exchange for the rights to acquire the land parcel later at the agreed price.
Beckham sees it from an entirely different perspective.
“To these people, to the rural people—[and] most city dwellers don’t understand it—their land is part of their family,” he said. “You don’t sell the land, you keep it in your family.”
Beckham also cited concerns about rural communities’ transportation systems being “frozen in place” due to inability to cross the train line. With only part of the line being placed on raised aqueducts, Beckham worries these communities will be unable to pay the additional costs to go over or under the line.
Beckham said there are also concerns from the organization about ridership estimations and planning.
He specifically pointed to possible cases of individuals driving or taking Uber to the Houston or Dallas stations, thereby causing traffic issues.
“This is not taking any cars off the road,” Beckham said, “It’s just focusing them on places where it was not designed [for that].”
He added that station areas with bad roads and traffic design are especially worrying due to the ridership projections given by Texas Central.
According to Beckham, “If they really do have five million a year, that means five million are getting dropped off or picked up. How are all these people [going to] get there and get out? Maybe one day it will be connected to light rail, but there’s no light rail connections there now.”
Similar concerns about ridership were voiced by John T. Harding, a chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration from 1976-2004.
In an official statement in front of the Surface Transportation Board, Harding said “Texas Department of Transportation estimates the 2035 annual ridership between ‘0.7M to 2.7M passengers,’ a range critically below the four million projected by TCR” and this was concerning to the feasibility of the project, and paying off construction debts.
About the safest conclusion one can make about the hiigh speed rail in the Lone Star State is that its pros and cons are likely to be rehashed and debated—and for some time to come.
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