Bullet Train Backers: Not Trying To Take Any Land Yet, Just Want To Know How Much We’d Owe You

BULLET TRAIN BACKERS: NOT TRYING TO TAKE ANY LAND YET, JUST WANT TO KNOW HOW MUCH WE’D OWE YOU Texas Central Proposed Alignment Overview MapTexas Central Railway is seeking approval from the federal Surface Transportation Board to start the ball rolling on eminent domain negotiations on land it would need to take to construct its planned high-speed line between Houston and Dallas, writes Eric Nicholson in the Dallas Observer this week. Granted, it’s not totally clear where all the needed land is yet, as the finalized route has yet to be confirmed or permitted. The company is nonetheless asking the board for permission to get a jump on what it purports is just an administrative aspect of the process: namely, negotiating land values of potentially condemned tracts with landowners. The company argues that this part doesn’t involve actually taking any land, and therefore doesn’t need the railroad agency’s approval. The company is trying to get going on acquisitions “as soon as possible” to meet an investor schedule requiring construction to start next year so service on the line can start in 2021. [Dallas Observer via Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Map of proposed high-speed rail routes: Texas Central Railway 

21 Comment

  • I don’t think I would want to be on the team that makes and receives calls and emails during this process. Building a condo on top of the Heights library would be easier.

  • We should build a Walmart on top of the Heights Library!

  • Lol, it’s cute, they think this is actually going to happen. The key here is “we must meet investor deadline”, which means we can squeeze more money out of these suckers as soon as we pretend to do something.

  • j: And probably more useful.

  • I am all for this project, if they can truly get it done with private money, but that private money needs to include a $1+ billion bond posted to whatever governing body gets stuck with the bankrupt carcass of this thing if it does actually get built. The project’s land acquisition and assembly costs alone really leave me scratching my head on how this would ever get built, let alone operate profitably, with either public or private money.

  • TCR’s troubles would be a lot less if they used the BNSF Corridor instead of going west and south along 290.
    It is straighter, and they could still use either the Northwest Mall proposed site or the Downtown sites.

  • The only thing that’s still up in the air about this project is the route it’ll take through the gas wells.
    The route through the Houston sprawl is set at this point, and it makes sense for TCR to start negotiating with landowners *now* before any part of the alignment gets platted as “Stonehollow Plaza at The Lakes of Creekridge Glenmont Cypress West.”

  • I don’t understand why everyone thinks the State will have to take ownership when/if it fails. The tracks could just be abandoned and the stations sold. The government does not have to take over and run it. It’s really the airlines that will hurt if this gets built as it will be quicker and lower price point for a business traveler. I don’t think it will work if they don’t bring it into both downtowns as that is the point of rail and not having to drive and rent a car.

  • Oy vey. Let the lawsuits fly !!

  • So, they’re negotiating but not in position to buy any property. Are they just trying to get a real cost estimation? And they realize the $10 billion estimate was too conservative.

    Not encouraging the project to falter once built, but AMTRAK could be able to pick up the infrastructure affordably. Someone else “losing their shirt”, not a government entity. AMTRAK does well on their high speed corridors in the NE.

  • So we have a private company trying to jump start eminent domain negotiations to start acquiring land in order to meet an unrealistic investor schedule. Yeah, this will be fun.

  • Actually, TCR is seeking lots of government loans and the ability to sell bonds that are tax free, which need government approval to sell. If the project fails, taxpayers will be on the hook for the bad loans.

    The guy in charge of TCR used to be at Deutsche Bank, doing lots of transportation bonds. Notably, that bank’s unsecured senior debt was cut to two notches above junk, or Baa2, by Moody’s today.

    In addition, if 1/3 of the project is expected to be financed by pension funds (some American) and institutions, the American taxpayer is also on the hook if those pensions (and possibly insurance companies) fail as well.

    Deeply disturbing that they want to take private Texan lands to enrich mainly foreign pensioners and the Americans who benefit by representing the foreign interests here. Let’s not forgot the train itself will be a monopoly as its technology (over 50 years old and decrepit compared to next gen Chinese Maglev) is not compatible with any other system ,like SNCF or Chinese rail. Texans will be at the mercy of a Japanese company for everything.

  • @Oracle: To answer your statement of “TCR’s troubles would be a lot less if they used the BNSF Corridor instead of going west and south along 290.”

    Here is a quote from the article about their proposed route study:
    “Only four options passed the “purpose and needs” test, which were the BNSF, UPRR, Interstate 45 Greenfield and Utility corridors. However, BNSF and UPRR, two railway lines, declined to allow TCR to use part of their rights of way. It also would be cost prohibitive due to the extra safety measures, or the amount of land that would be needed to purchase from private land owners. Therefore, the FRA described those options as “infeasible.”


  • BNSF = 4°00′
    HSR = 0°26′
    Utility Easement = 0°00′
    It was never really a contest.

  • I dont think the “out of towners” pushing for this, realize how much Texans like their land. There is going to be more than a few hold outs, who should not be forced to sell their land for some sort of communist highway.

  • it’ll be up on poles. the cows can rest in the shade

  • A straight line seems the shortest path between two points. Veering off to the west near Waller just does not make sense. If a well capitalized company had this project, they would be able to afford to pay the indemnification needed by the freight rail companies (to locate a passenger train near the freight rail lines, near the BNSF for example]. TCR is not going to use freight track for this, they just wanted to go near the freight tracks because the land value is already ruined and it is cheaper for them to use the eminent domain/condemnation process there.

    The BNSF route (there were 3 BNSF choices) was in the top 2 routes along with Utility Corridor as far as “scores” go. Even better, a well capitalized company could put the thing down I-45 where it really belongs, and where common sense dictates it should be. There is a way to do it, TCR just does not have the cash.

    TCR chose the cheaper and less direct, misnamed “Utility Corridor” (where 30% of the route follows no utility at all) along the future “transmission line” route because their buddies in Dallas succeeded in foisting an unneeded power line down to Houston, at great cost to landowners and NW Houston.

    TCR, in collusion with the power sellers, was going to piggy back on this new line. Due to political reasons, and well placed calls, the Hockley route got altered at the last minute and now TCR has a huge mess on its hands, and deservedly so.

    Also, the train will be powered by coal (the electricity has to come from somewhere) so the power-sellers make some dough on that too. Not as green as it would seem? Pretty much the rentier class screwing the non-rentier class.

  • Why bother with 40 year old technology? Hyperloop will be faster, cheaper and won’t require a solid berm bisecting every county between Houston and Dallas.

  • The railroad needs to make two major cases, first that those tinkertoy power stanchions won’t be any uglier than the high-tension lines that are already there on most of their route, and more importantly, that the disturbance from passing trains won’t impair cattle production nearby. I seem to recall that “it’ll scare the cows” was the final nail in the coffin of the previous Texas Triangle HSR attempt.

    Once they have official eminent domain authority, there will be no stopping this project. I drive I-43 six times a year and that’s about four times too many. As long as they have rental car services at the stations, I’m ready.

  • @ Oracle of Pasadena: Anything that places additional load on the electrical grid will be powered by electrons. These electrons will come from numerous power stations of different types, and the precise mix will vary mostly according to daytime/nighttime demand cycles, the weather, and scheduled plant maintenance.
    The last coal-fired power plant was built in 1993 and coal-fired electricity generation and capacity utilization plateaued in the early 2000s. It is not increasing and cannot increase to keep pace with more recent demand. The same can be said of nuclear. In the decade between 2004 and 2014, the additional generation to sate new demand came from natural gas (+7 TWh, +3.6%) (which is great because it can be turned on and off very easily whenever it is needed, unlike coal, nuclear, solar, or wind), wind (+36 TWh, +844%), solar (+0.3 TWh, from nothing), and biomass (+0.5 TWh, +197%).
    Furthermore, vast sums of money have been spent to connect the windy parts of west and northwest Texas to populated parts of the ERCOT grid. There’s plenty of new line capacity to accommodate new wind generation.

  • I am generally for the idea of this, but this move is going to kill the movement politically. It is one thing to fight with landowners over property values when your route actually crosses their land, it is another thing to do it before you have ANY idea of the route. This is forcing lots of rural folks into completely unnecessary legal battles.