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Old Posted Apr 16, 2015, 7:32 PM
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Meet the Opposition to Texas High-Speed Rail

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With the project advancing toward route selection and environmental review, an intense opposition has emerged. It's taken the form of anti-HSR groups (e.g. No Texas Central and Texans Against High Speed Rail), local legislation designed to stop the project, packed and panicked community meetings, and pleas for Congressional representatives to block any applications made by Texas Central to the Surface Transportation Board.

- One state representative who opposes the project has proposed a bill that "would require the elected officials of every city and county along the route to approve the project," reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.* With the train running through some heavily rural areas, such a law would create an enormous challenge if passed. At the moment the bill has been sent to a legislative committee.

- The champion of the bill, Will Metcalf, has given several reasons for opposing the plan. But one of his statements makes clear that he just doesn't see trains as a viable transportation alternative. --- "We need more roads for citizens to travel to ease our existing roadways,” Metcalf said. "We do not need a high-speed railway in Texas that will only benefit a few, while at the same time disturbing thousands of citizens within its path.”

- Metcalf isn't alone in this sentiment. Another elected official, Ben Lehman of Grimes County, has questioned whether the train will attract enough riders. He's also been quoted as saying that the 18 million people who drive between Houston and Dallas each year have "gone through this decision-making process" and concluded "it's more feasible to drive."

- Fears of misused eminent domain are both valid and welcomed in any democratic setting. But what's strange here is that the bill targets high-speed rail despite the fact that lots of private firms in Texas can wield eminent domain for the greater public good; via the Tribune: --- Currently, hundreds of private firms have eminent domain authority in Texas, including pipeline companies, utility companies and telecommunication firms. More than a dozen private railroad companies also have that authority, according to an unofficial list maintained by the state comptroller.

- The CEO of Texas Central reportedly asked at a recent hearing that his railway not be punished "just because it goes faster than other trains." And the company has given every indication that it would use this power judiciously. It reportedly won't auction off unused land (as California has done), and it's also planning to use its private pockets to compensate landowners generously.

- Which leads to the final major criticism of the privately funded Texas Central plan: that it won't actually be privately funded. Or, rather, that it will start out privately funded but fail to meet its ridership goals and call on the public for a subsidy. Here's HSR opponent Kyle Workman making that case, via the Courier of Montgomery County: --- “There are no profitable high-speed rail lines in the world,” Workman said. “They are all heavily taxpayer supported.”

- For the record, though, there are lots of profitable high-speed rail lines in the world. If you count Acela, which easily covers its operating costs through fares, there's even one right in the United States. --- So that's the latest from Texas. It may be impossible for any mega-project—privately funded or not—to escape the type of pushback mounting against the Dallas-Houston HSR plan. And again, the democratic process not only allows but encourages this sort of scrutiny. It also works best when each side makes its case on the best possible facts, rather than the worst possible fears.


What are we doing to oppose high-speed rail in Texas?

- Working with legislators and other elected officials directly and through our lobbyist to support the creation and passage of legislation to oppose high-speed rail in Texas.

- Hosting meetings throughout the state to increase awareness and raise funds to support this effort.

- Making grassroots efforts easier by providing sample letters and the ease of sending letters directly from our website, as well as utilizing social media to keep you informed and engaged in the high-speed rail opposition conversation.
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