Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rural Texas landowners on route of proposed bullet train say it mostly only benefits urban areas

Dallas Morning News graphic: Population
growth along proposed bullet train route.
For an interactive version click here.
A proposed 240-mile bullet train between Dallas and Houston is sparking a rural/urban divide, Brandon Formby and Jill Cowan report for The Dallas Morning News. Cattle farmer John Stoneham's ranch, which consists of 1,000 acres of land in Grimes County in the southeast part of the state, "is among thousands of parcels of Texas land that could one day be home to America’s first high-speed rail line. It’s also the site of a likely collision between two of the state’s most dearly held principles: Texans’ right to do what they want with their property and the free market’s ability to solve thorny problems with little government interference."

Privately-owned Texas Central Partners says the bullet train project between downtown Dallas and northwest Houston could travel at 205 miles per hour and reduce the trip to 90 minutes, reports the Morning News. "Company executives and elected officials in the state say connecting two of the nation’s largest business hubs with a landmark transportation project will further grow Texas’ already bustling economy. Many leaders in Dallas and Houston are on board." The two cities have 13 million residents, nearly half of the state's population.

"Texas Central promises to get the $12 billion project done without taking public dollars other than through loans—and vows it will help increase tax revenue for scores of cities, counties and school districts along the route," reports the Morning News. "But landowners along the way oppose the rail project for a litany of reasons. Some doubt Texas Central’s claims about how many riders it’ll attract and the train’s broad economic benefits."

"Others don’t think a company using Japanese technology and equipment for a privately-owned transportation project should have the ability to use eminent domain to buy up their land," reports the Morning News. "Texas Central says it will only use eminent domain as a last-case scenario. But its claims that it has the power to do so have already spurred state legislation that aims to stop the project in its tracks. The company is expected to fight those bills."

"Opponents also don’t see why they should get behind a project that will change the characteristics of their land on its way to benefiting the state’s urban hubs," reports the Morning News.

Stoneham, who said Texas Central's offer of roughly $900,000 for 50 acres of his land was "way too low," told the Morning News, "It’s not going to be an easement, they’re just going to cut and run a path through. So the place is basically going to be cut in half.”

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