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Texans rally against high speed rail

February 26, 2020 - 12:41
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Texans Against High Speed Rail (TAHSR) hosted a public rally Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Grimes County Expo Center to update the residents of Grimes County on the fight against Texas Central Railroad’s (TCR) desire to bring a high-speed rail to Texas and through Grimes County.

TAHSR chairman and president, Kyle Workman said five years ago he couldn’t have imagined that he would still be here fighting against the high-speed rail but now he can potentially see the fight ongoing for another five years.

“As you know we continue to fight this project as a whole,” explained Workman. “We’re not interested in moving it from your property to your neighbor’s property. We’re not interested in even moving it across the county.”

Workman said they still have two major tenets. “We do not like the use of eminent domain for a private company solely for private gain and we do not like the inevitable taxpayer subsidy that we believe will take place because we know without a doubt that passenger rail in the United States is subsidized and every high-speed rail unit in the world is subsidized and these guys (TCR) don’t have the magic formula to figure out how to do it,” stated Workman.

Workman said when you are talking about 20 to 30 billion dollars of debt service or mortgage paying it back with ridership is impossible. “There is absolutely no way that they can pay that back with ridership and we all know that, and we’re not fooled by their funny math.”

Grimes County Judge Joe Fauth who also serves on the board for TAHSR said TCR does not have eminent domain and was willing to repeat it. “I’ll repeat that one more time, today they do not have eminent domain authority,” proclaimed Fauth.

Fauth said Grimes County is considered a rural county by classification but if you consider the cemeteries, schools, historical markers, churches, oil and gas wells and pipelines where TCR is proposed to go it is a very complicated area. Fauth said it’s not rural but is a business community with a lot of people.

“If they had eminent domain authority then they would have the ability to go two miles west and two miles east of the rail which is a four-mile strip,” explained Fauth. From one end of Grimes County to the other Fauth said it is 47 miles, 170 square miles or 108 thousand acres.

“If you look at what is under contract and under deed for that 47-miles, less than seven miles has been obligated to TCR. So, if somebody says you need to go ahead and sell your land because TCR has 85% of the land committed that’s BS, and you can figure out what that means but it’s not the truth,” stated Fauth.

United States Congressman Kevin Brady said the fight is ongoing in Washington DC to prevent TCR from being granted eminent domain. “I think the bigger challenge in Washington is the Surface Transportation Board,” explained Brady. “You may recall that when TCR started out they sold it as a Texas project that was privately financed, but in 2016 they reversed course. They looked to bypass Texas and go to Washington to apply for permits to do two things; they want to be named a federal railroad so they can get from Washington DC the power to seize your land without your permission, which is eminent domain.”

Brady said the second thing is they want the ability to begin construction. Brady said in 2016 he along with others backed by TAHSR fought those applications in Washington and won, unfortunately in 2018 TCR refiled their applications. Now Brady said TCR says they are going to sell Amtrak tickets, but he said the problem is they don’t connect to Amtrak.

“If they sold movie tickets would they be a movie theatre,” Brady asked? “We have a lot at stake at the Surface and Transportation board because at the end of the day this is all about preempting our state and local officials in your state. This is about getting eminent domain out of Washington DC to take our Texas land.”

Brady also expects the release of proposed safety regulations from the Federal Railroad Administration to be released within a couple weeks. He said they are creating safety regulations since there isn’t currently a railroad that travels over 150 miles per hour.

Once the drafted safety rules are released, 60 days of public comment will follow. Brady stated he met with an administrator and asked them not to just hold public hearings in Dallas and Austin but to hold a public hearing in rural Texas where they can hear from those who are being hurt by this train. “They are going to respond to each and every comment you and I give and then make a final ruling,” said Brady.

State Representative Ben Leman was also among those who provided updates and spoke against TCR.

Workman reminded those in attendance that fighting TCR also takes a toll financially and that TAHSR supporters should support financially as well to ensure they are able to defeat TCR and stop the train from coming through Texas.