NAVASOTA, Tex. (KBTX) – The ongoing debate continues on a planned bullet train from Dallas to Houston. The legislative session in Austin recently wrapped up, and proposed legislation to fight the train ultimately didn’t pass.
Texas Central said their railroad plan is rolling along after a successful legislative session, despite those efforts to stop them. This year, more bills were filed than ever before.
“This is the third session that the legislature has talked about the high speed train as a topic, and no onerous legislation or confusing regulations have passed,” said Holly Reed, Texas Central Managing Director of External Affairs. “It’s a clear move to wanting the project to happen,” she said.
State Representative Ben Leman filed four bills in February that would have addressed things like eminent domain reporting requirements and having tracks be elevated. Other legislation would also have limited TxDOT from working with the high speed rail company on right-of-way.
“It just didn’t have enough time to get it across the finish line, but I think raising awareness that we did and understanding, ‘Hey these are major issues and major concerns,'” said Rep. Ben Leman, (R) District 13. “I would say, ‘Just show me the money.’ Show me how you can build this project,” he added.
Texas Central said Monday their project hasn’t slowed down.
“We’ve been building momentum all year, even during the legislative session, towards getting the two federal permits that are needed for the project,” said Reed.
One landowner said his fight isn’t over.
“I think a lot of legislators learned a heck of a lot from us. I am extremely disappointed hat none of that stuff got through,” said Glenn Mannina, a Grimes County resident who owns property in Leon County and has been active with Texans Against High Speed Rail.
“It’s not on my property, but it’s close enough that I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to see it and I don’t want it to affect my property values,” he said.
Mannina also testified several times in Austin about the project.
“I thought the process was extremely fair. I mean, you know, we had the ability to have testimony from people who were in opposition to the high speed rail and, of course, Texas Central was there to also testify,” said Mannina.
They did get a subcommittee hearing.
“Those bills did not make it through, and there was also a rider where it would have prevented TxDOT from working and negotiating on state right-of-way that also did not make it through. So I was very happy with us getting our message across,” said Mannina.
Texas Central maintains their project is good for the rapidly growing state. Their trains would connect Dallas and Houston in 90 minutes.
Texas Central said Monday they hope to have their permits by the end of this year. They said construction could start in 2020 and take five to six years to complete.
Ongoing legal disputes continue on their ability to use eminent domain.