Citizens opposed to the proposed high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas are celebrating victories after legislation that could derail the venture passed the Texas Senate.
Last week, lawmakers in the state’s upper chamber passed two major bills strongly opposed by Texas Central, which is spearheading the proposed railway, but strongly supported by taxpayers and landowners along the projected route.
Led by State Sens. Charles Schwertner (R–Georgetown), Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe) and Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), the Texas Senate passed Senate Bills 977 and 979 which, if they become law, will hold Texas Central to its promise that it will require no state funds for construction, operation, and maintenance and prevent the company from seizing citizens’ property with eminent domain.
Each of the three lawmakers represent portions of Texas through which the company’s proposed railway could run. Their constituents overwhelmingly oppose the project, and most of the counties within the rail’s proposed route have passed resolutions opposing it.
Many taxpayers across the state have expressed concern that while Texas Central is not asking for public funding at this time, the company could fail and leave taxpayers with an incomplete or bankrupt project—potentially requiring a state bailout in order to complete the project or undo the damage. A controversial study by the Reason Foundation has projected massive deficits for the project, estimating the rail could cost taxpayers up to $21.5 billion over the next 40 years.
Though Texas Central and the state’s business lobby strongly opposed the bill, SB 977 passed the Texas Senate last week. If the measure becomes law it will ensure that Texas taxpayers will not be asked to later subsidize, bail out, or otherwise financially support a private high-speed rail project by barring state funds from being allocated to the measure.
Meanwhile, SB 979, clarifies state law to ensure that Texas Central lacks the power of eminent domain, and to quote the committee report, “protects private property rights by providing landowners with assurances that their property will not be taken under the threat of eminent domain and later used for a different purpose.”
The passage of the two bills garnered major praise from Texans Against High-Speed Rail, a citizen group opposing the proposed railway:
“We would like to applaud Senator Charles Schwertner’s valiant efforts in protecting our state from Texas Central Partners proposed rail project. Senator Schwertner’s bills continue their momentum. SB 977 and SB 979 glided out of the Senate and will begin their way through the House of Representatives,” said the organization on Facebook. “Let’s keep encouraging our state legislators to do the right thing, protect our home, our land and our rights.”
Both measures will now proceed to the Texas House which has been significantly quieter in terms of its opposition to the high-speed rail project.