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The Texas attorney general has backed a landowner’s argument against the companies developing a controversial Dallas-Houston bullet train on the grounds not to force people to sell packages needed for the high-speed rail project.
At the invitation of the Texas Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s office paid tribute to the matter and offered the latest twist in the nearly decade-long battle for a 240-mile line that connect Dallas and Houston. Although the project has received support from leaders of the urban areas, it has been met tough resistance from residents of rural counties on his suggested path.
One of those residents, Leon County’s landowner James Miles, sued Texas Central after the private company applied for permission to survey its 600-acre property in 2015 as part of an effort to survey the land for the project. Miles asked the courts to state that the company did not have the right to enter its property because it did not have the eminent domain authority granted to the railroad companies.
He won before a trial, but the lawsuit reached the Texas Supreme Court after a Corpus Christi state appeals court sided with Texas Central and an affiliate.
In one Legal mandate filed with the Texas Supreme Court on Friday, Assistant Attorney General for Texas Ken Paxton argued that the Supreme Court should overturn this appeal decision and rule in Miles’ favor because the companies do not meet the definition of a railroad company in the Texas Constitution.
“The [companies] are only allowed to carry out preliminary investigations and inspections of properties of private landowners for the purpose of building and operating a high-speed train, if they are railway companies or electric intercity railway companies, ”the state writes on its behalf. “From the point of view of the state, this is [companies] are not both. “
With that, they have “no authority to enter, investigate, measure or judge Miles’ land,” the state wrote.
The state’s legal mandate is largely determined by the importance of part of the state’s Transport Code, which allows private companies to exercise significant influence in “running a railroad”. Sometimes read as a semantic study of interpreting tenses and grammar in state laws, the state said the companies could not be classified in this way because they “do not currently own trains and have not built tracks or train depots”.
“The grammar rules confirm that the defendants are not railroad companies,” argued the AG office.
In the litigation, the companies argued that they met this definition under the Transport Code because they carried out the preparatory work necessary for the construction of a railway, which gives a reasonable likelihood of future railway operation.
On this point, too, the state contradicted the companies, as they could not demonstrate any prospect of sufficient funding for the completion of the project.
Texas Central officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company had previously promised to fund the project – at a cost of around $ 20 billion – with the support of private investors and without public funding.
Company executives have previously stated that they would prefer “not at all” to use a significant domain and rather work out amicable sales agreements for the thousands of packages needed to build the project in 10 counties. The company has also vowed to minimize the line’s impact on the surrounding land.
The high-speed rail project has been marked by setbacks and controversy for more than a decade. In both courthouses and the CapitolOpponents have focused on Texas Central’s claim that state law gives them the right to use a significant domain and force unwilling owners to sell their land.
The push for the Dallas-Houston bullet train is based on its promise to build a line that trains can travel at speeds of up to 205 miles per hour, to reduce a journey that would normally take four hours by car to 90 minutes to reduce.
But securing the land along the planned route has proven to be a challenge. In 2020, Texas Central said it secured more than 600 parcels of land that only cover about 40% of the land – not the land – it needs for the project. Given the fierce opposition to the project in rural areas, an eminent domain is likely to be seen as necessary at some point.
In Leon County, according to legal records, a proposal would cut Miles’ 600 acres in half with a 30-foot right of way.
On Monday, opponents of the railway described the Attorney General’s mandate as “strong support for Texan private property rights”.
“The mission of [attorney general’s office] It is clear that the activities to date, the corporate structure and the financial position of the project, coupled with the very high uncertainty that the project will ever be built, do not reach a threshold that would support the claim by Texas Central about a pre-eminent domain authority The Texans Against High-Speed Rail group announced in a press release.
Disclosure: Texas Central is a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the tribune‘s journalism. Find a complete one List of them here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Grandstand at the https://www.texastribune.org/2021/12/20/texas-high-speed-train-dallas-houston/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, non-partisan newsroom that educates and engages Texans about state politics and politics. Learn more at texastribune.org.