Northwest Mall’s Secret Buyer; The Kerosene in Cedar Bayou; Development Limitations in the City with No Limits


Photo of US-59: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool


58 Comment

  • Whoever buys Northwest Mall better leave some room for a rail station.

    Unless the mystery buyer *is* the railroad…

  • Ah, yes I have a question for Texas Central Partners. Its very important and deserves your complete attention. Given that you are a foreign company, controlled by the Japanese government, I am very concerned about dragon infestations. Those berms that are being planned are excellent dragon habitat. Dragons can be very loud and I think that they will scare my chupacabras. Chupacabras are a part of my cultural heritage and you clearly don’t respect that, so you need to take your worthless money and invest it far far away from me. Maybe just go buy some airline stock or something.

  • The article supposedly debunking high speed rail myths is just a reprint of the PR brochure from the HSR company, it doesn’t debunk anything at all. Their stance on the biggest dispute of ridership and costs is “we don’t have to tell you, you will find out at the end” by that time all the damage is done, and tax dollars to the rescue. They haven’t even touched on the route through Houston which nobody likes, they haven’t ruled out eminent domain, and to this day nobody addressed the reality of having to rent a car once you get to your destination.
    We also have a precedent of such projects being miserable failure like the Commiefornia LA to SF boondoggle.

  • The article in Urban Land Magazine, about Houston’s lack of zoning, is incredibly astute. It confirms what’s really great about this City, namely, our flexibility and ‘bottom up’ approach to land use regulation, allowing neighborhoods to control their own land uses.
    It also points at what’s bad. In zoned cities, architects and developers have it easy. They go to the codes and amendments for how they’re allowed to build. They go to a zoning ordinance for what they’re allowed to build and where. In Houston it’s a lot more complex. You go to the codes and amendments for how you”re allowed to build. You go to chapter 42 of the City Code for some things, but Chapter 42 can be preemped by local deed restrictions and design guidelines, so you have to find those, too. Then there’s the MUDs and LIDs to worry about. And finally, other parts of the City Code can come into play as well. It’s a recipe for headaches for architects, like me. And I’ve seen out-of-towners designing buildings here get really frustrated about it.
    All of that said, I wouldn’t have it any other way! And I know someone will probably come here and say “oh but ZAW, you’re moving to a zoned City (Sugar Land). But Sugar Land actually has large areas that are zoned for “Planned Development.” In these areas, it works like Houston: the city-wide zoning ordinance is set aside, and a separate, locally customized ordinance takes over.

  • RE: NW Mall sale

    The company that is selling it bought it in 2007, likely to make it a high end strip center with big box stores like the other projects on their website ( So, that’s potentially great news that a big box store developer is giving it up. This site has a great location and it could potentially be a blockbuster development like city centre that would add lots of value to the area. It would also be pretty cool if it was a train station on the high speed rail line. We could get a historic looking train station amid great new retail and restaurants that would add value. That would be the dream for that location.

  • My guess? Secret buyer is TCR. Let the speculation….. BEGIN!

  • @commonsense – The route through Houston will be fine if it goes through the NW mall area and follows existing corridors. No problems, there. It’s really unlikely that this will be a boondoggle because it’s being financed by private dollars with zero indication of a bailout if it doesn’t work (the Texas legislature has never given a corporate bailout). As to eminent domain, it should be minimal if the rail follows existing corridors. Additionally, there is a longstanding right for the public to have transportation access through private land. Roads and rail have to get built.

  • Even if TCR is subsidized, so is every other form of transportation! Why is this such a big hold up for some people? Also, the same can be said about eminent domain — other private/publicly-traded enterprises use eminent domain as well.

  • Re: sale of NW Mall to “secret” buyer – area facbook and nextdoor neighbor pages are about to go ballistic with speculation, calls for petitions and community meetings!

  • Are people still complaining about the “rent a car at your destination” thing? I swear, that argument is so fatuous. You do realize that LOTS of people fly to DFW from Houston, all the time. And you do realize that its the exact same problem. I just don’t get some of the moronic arguments I hear against HSR, people are seriously reaching to find a way to stop it. Hey, maybe we should just build a toll-road between DFW and Houston!

  • The bottom line is that TCR is not gonna happen, not in our lifetimes. Whatever they did, they pissed off the wrong people, there’s already a bill flying fast through legislature banning them from using eminent domain. And that’s just a start on state level, several counties are planning pre-emptive legal action.
    On a separate note, I’ve never heard of projects such as this being fully privately financed, the math just isn’t there, that’s why only governments can afford it and don’t care if it bleeds money for decades. The whole business plan sounds like an investment scam or a “producers” type scam.

  • @Fernando A fine point that all too often is lost on certain people. “Boo hoo, rail requires subsidies!” As does every single road and highway ever built, often at 100%. If only those people would just be more honest and say “I won’t use public transportation, so just subsidize the roads I want to use. I got mine, so f— everyone else.”

  • @MrEction, the renting a car thing is very serious problem, and that is why vast majority of people choose to drive to Dallas instead of flying today. The rail by all estimates will cost just as much to ride as flying is today especially considering they WILL have to add TSA style security to it. The difference is, the rail will cost billions, will negatively impact all in it’s path, and will provide no better alternatives. It costs fraction of the price of the rail to add hundreds of new commuter flights including buying brand new planes.

    Some technologies just need to be skipped over, much like most of the developing world skipped over installing land phone lines and went straight to cellphone towers. A technology that dominated for 100 years was made unnecessary by modern, cheaper, better technology. Just like planes with all their faults still trump the proposed Victorian era choochoo.

  • Commonsense has officially jumped the shark

  • While I question the viability of HSR financially as a private venture, I don’t why government should disallow them the same privileges (eminent domain) given to private utilities and transportation companies. Let them do their thing, and if they fail, they fail. Funny how people suddenly want to get all “big government” over this. Of course, many have been fighting new pipelines and high-voltage corridors too. But I say, privileges for all, or for none.

  • I really hope Texas Central is the buyer. I am really ok with Northwest mall being their main stop. Malls at stations is how railways in Japan make a lot of their money so it is a good fit.

    As to common sense, I am going to guess you never took the Acela or any other train in the North East. There are no TSA style screenings, why would there be any here? As to car rental, yes many people will want to rent a car (another reason why the NW mall is a good site). Others though that are going to Downtown or the galleria area will probably opt for a cab.

  • The biggest problem I have with the high speed train is the proposed path. They have chosen the utility corridor, instead of paralleling the existing train corridor. When pipeline and powerline easements were set, they were laid in the straightest line possible, as turns cost more money. Therefore, they can cut diagonally across land, while still allowing the landowner use of the surface of the land. Nothing permanent other than fencing can be built on those easements. The width of those easements varies, but are probably at least 100′ wide. The train cannot use the same surface easement as the powerline or the pipeline, so it must run next to it. A landowner may effectively be unable to build on their own property for the easements. And who would want to build next to the train, anyway? And no, the TCR will not buy up the rest of the property that had it’s value ruined.

    In my case, the train corridor has the potential of wiping me out. I only have 13 acres of land, currently valued at over $10,000/acre, in southern Grimes County. I back up to an existing rail line. If the high speed line takes 100 of my property, I drop to less than the required 10 acres of productive acreage, and lose my ag exemption. Without that, my taxes triple. And will the TCR buy my full property? NO. Would I be able to sell my remaining property for anywhere near what it is worth now? NO. Will the county reduce my land value because of the train? NO. Would I even be able to sell the property at all? Doubtful. So, I’m stuck on a property I can’t sell and can’t afford to pay taxes on, much less have to listen to a high speed train whizzing behind my house every hour.

  • @ commonsense: I drive instead of flying to Dallas because I don’t want to drive to the airport and pay for airport parking or otherwise pay for a taxi. I also seem to have the worst of luck about being on flights that get delayed, in which case it can take just as long or longer to fly as to drive in terms of the time that it takes to leave home and arrive at my final destination. If I can depart from downtown Houston then I can probably avoid or minimize those hassles. If the ticket price is reasonable and the journey is faster, then it will be a serious consideration. I might even go to Dallas more often.

    Ironically though, and to your point, when I drive to Dallas on a short trip, I always rent a car in Houston that is more fuel efficient than my personal vehicle and the rental prices are so low that renting pays for itself by saving my car from wear and tear and depreciation. I also drive it much harder than I would my personal vehicle. (Because I can, that’s why.) I view renting a car as a feature, not a bug.

  • commonsense is correct. TCR’s Rumors v Realities document is long on words and short on facts.

    TCR seems to think the most important thing is that project investors are convinced this is a good project. Even though TCR won’t tell us who the investors are or how much they’ve invested, TCR wants us to buy that if someone has invested in the project, it’s a good project because investors never invest in projects that aren’t good.

    On their website, TCR says they will seek federal loans and state and local economic development tools. The mayor of Dallas has said the Dallas and Houston will be on the hook for portions of this project. This I believe. In fact, I think they will end up seeking 100% of construction costs from the taxpayers.

    People are right to be concerned about the seizure of their property via eminent domain for a doomed project.

  • @commonsense, HSR is hardly a “Victorian-era choo-choo,” and in fact is the dominant transportation type in Europe and most developing countries. I would say the U.S. is way behind the curve on HSR, which requires a fraction of the fuel and ground infrastructure as that of planes. TX and the U.S. don’t have a decent intra/interstate rail system today because of intense lobbying by major air carriers and meddling by politicians beholden to said lobbyists. We should have gotten on the train 30 years ago when it would have been far cheaper to build, but that doesn’t mean we should never do it at all. Our federal government would rather bail out airlines after 9/11 than spend that cash on a decent national rail system.

  • If the HSR runs frequently enough (at least once every hour during peak travel times) and the cost is comparable or cheaper than flying, I would seriously consider it. A major factor for me is predictability. Flight schedules are unreliable, especially during bad weather. I’ve been stuck in DFW and DAL more than I can count during ice storms or thunderstorms. HSR doesn’t have to travel through storm clouds or deal with delayed incoming aircraft due to bad weather across the country, and this reliability would be a major advantage.

    As for rental cars, yes, it’s no different from flying. Just add a Hertz or Avis location at both terminals.

  • The Texas legislature and High Speed Rail reminds me of city hall and food trucks. Opponents were nakedly being stooges for industries with a vested interest in seeing competition limited by any means necessary. I am sure the road builders have all kinds of great ideas for a seventy nine lane toll road from Dallas to Houston. And Southwest would rather not have a clean and comfortable alternative to being crammed between two overweight salesman on a 737 for an hour and a half (and dealing with parking and a rental car at each end of the trip).

    Also, having made the trip both by air and car, I do not understand why eminent domain is an issue for this part of Texas. 90% of the affected land is working farms or just open land. High speed rail would have no impact. If anything, it would make things a bit more interesting in a part of Texas that has very little going on.

  • Fuck it… build the rail so that cars can also ride, like a ferry, and you solve the ‘Rent a Car’ problem, you still drive your own car and you get there in 90 minutes. Let’s just hope there is never an accident, I’d guess the train might have a lot of inertia… and maybe a little longer than 90 minutes with the added weight. ;^)

  • The GOOFer’s heads are about to explode at the prospect of the Pinemont Park and Ride being sold to the Houston Housing Authority. Desperate housewife NIMBY campaigns to stop them from somehow turning the GOOF into a post-apocalyptic wasteland have already begun on social media. Imagine what would happen if THIS is what the Houston Housing Authority was really after! Let the rampant speculation and fear mongering commence!

  • Old School,

    I don’t buy the lobbying conspiracy theories.

    For the legislators “opposed” I think it is naked Red Team vs. Blue Team

    Liberals like trains therefore they must be bad.

  • Why do GOOFers flip out over a train that won’t even be that noisy when they are totally fine with 610 and 290 drowning out their conversations already?

    River Oaks, Highland Village and Washington Heights all have trains and it hasn’t hurt their values at all.

  • Old School, all that empty farm land represents one of the most subsidized and dependent industries on government protections. Of course there’s going to be major blowback.
    Exactly how many 240 mile trains have been built throughout the world with no major connections between its end points or connecting two cities with similar low density readings & high car ownership rates as Houston/Dallas? I can’t think of one, and certainly not one built for business travellers only. This isn’t something where you can just point the finger at other succesful trains around the world becuase it’s a very special situation and there’s very good reasons why america has never depended on trains in the past. We have very high car ownership rates and low transportation costs.
    The only people I’ve ever heard even mention this train are business travellers between the two cities and that right there is a showstopper to me. Any projections being made have to be based on gross assumptions about how many retail customers this train line will absorb. Transportation costs beyond that of the train itself is a very big deal for non-business travellers, and even more so if gas prices don’t significantly rise from this point. It’s one thing to be able to bank roll and build this, it’s an entirely different game to have investors money sitting in a bank to maintain it and clean up the mess if it all goes under.

  • In Europe, HSR is replacing regular passenger rail which Europeans have ridden for decades. Texans don’t ride passenger trains much. According to the Reason Foundation Report “The average
    Japanese person travels about 1,950 miles per year by train, which is more than people in any other
    country. But only about 20% of those rail-miles are by high-speed rail.”

    The Shinkansen train in Japan was built in 1964, at a time when only 12% of the Japanese had cars. It was built to expand capacity on an overcrowded passenger train route. 2015 Texas is not 1964 Japan.

    Nobody has provided ridership and revenue estimates for the Dallas-Houston HSR.

  • @ joel: If this HSR project gets built with private funds and it winds up defaulting on its debt and declaring bankruptcy, how exactly is that bad for Texas?

  • Niche: It will take taxpayer funding. TCR says on it’s own website they may seek federal loans, TIRZ, and economic development tools. All taxpayer money. under TAXPAYER FUNDING.
    Dallas’s mayor has said that Dallas and Houston will be on the hook for portions of the project.
    There is precedence for a proposed HSR to say it will be privately funded and then seek federal loans for the full amount.
    Surely you can figure out that an abandoned rail line that used eminent domain to take Texan’s land is not good for Texas. Who will maintain or tear down this crumbling wall?

  • TheNiche, in the case of a bankruptcy you lose any opportunity to develop mass transportation by rail in the entire state for two generations, minimum. There will be a very solid opposition group with all the power in hand due to lots of folks losing land (even if bought out at handsome prices) on a failed project. You greatly increase environmental pollution with nothing to show for it. You have a rail line stretching all the way from Houston to Dallas impeding any development of any kind along it’s corridor. State will pick up the tab for safety mitigations along a barren corridor.
    Nobody can deny this is a high risk project. To go all in on such a vast large scale project with such high risks at hand does not sound like sound reasoning. Look, I’ve seen tons of articles published demonizing folks that are against rail and all about the varying interests that opposers may have at hand. This should appear problematic to everyone. At this point in game, people need to be writing articles about why we should be for it as the onerous is on them to prove the case. Glancing at other toy trains around the world will not suffice. Does anyone even know how many years the builder expects to operate this route at a loss before it becomes profitable? It’s not like we’re in the middle of good economic times and things can’t change very drastically in a year or two.

  • If this thing actually reaches FID, the equity partners probably walk away with a nice success fee, a group of Japanese banks plunks down 90% of the non-recourse project financing based on some over-exuberant DSCR projections, construction commences and the project goes into default once completed, possibly before it’s even completed once reality sets in. What happens next?

  • @RyanR

    I have no problem with them taking federal loans. We are paying that money out no matter what and someone somewhere will get money earmarked for rail. It might as well be us. What matters is if they take money from the state or local gov. The Texas legislature has never given a bailout in its 150 plus year existence. As for Houston being on the hook, I didn’t have a chance to read the article, but the bulk of track is not in Houston and it will follow existing corridors. CoH can’t raise taxes for this anyway without a public vote of some kind. The argument that it will require public funds is really weak.

    Also, there is zero chance that the rail would be built and then abandoned. That’s a scare tactic that needs to be discredited. What would happen if the railroad met financial trouble is the railroad would declare bankruptcy and someone else would buy it as a distressed asset at a rate in which it could be profitably operated. We wouldn’t ever have a post-apocalyptic abandoned rail line sitting in people’s farmland.

  • @ RyanR: Yes, I acknowledge that TCR is going to seek to take advantage of any public funding sources that present themselves as opportunities. It doesn’t necessarily bother me though if they’re using federal money as long as that money isn’t necessarily being diverted dollar-for-dollar from other Texas projects. Texas needs to work harder to recapture the money that it puts into the federal government. We shoot ourselves in the foot about that sort of thing way too often.

    On the subject of contributions by cities, TIRZs, Management Districts, transit agencies, and other local entities…it doesn’t really strike me that the legislature should go out of their way to block those entities from funding any one particular boondoggle. I can make a SOLID case for legislative restructuring of how funds are raised and spent for boondoggles in general, but that’s not the issue that’s being made here. I would also be opposed to the legislature creating new taxing entities to generally finance this HSR proposal; however if it is getting built, then at some future date I think that it would be worthwhile for local governments to invest in roadway or transit improvements in order to improve access to the stations. That much seems reasonable.

    I also have no objection to using eminent domain in this situation. There’s a clear public purpose, just the same as any other for-profit entity that is able to wield eminent domain powers. Its not as though its an obvious abuse of power to effect a land grab for other purposes, and affected property owners are not being denied rights of due process in order to seek just compensation. Even if the HSR line could not generate sufficient revenues to cover its operating costs at any frequency of operation and were ultimately abandoned (and that is an extreme scenario because its so much more likely that bondholders would take a haircut or that it’d be sold into new ownership), its still very difficult for me to discern how the public would be “on the hook” for it any more than that the public is on the hook for a freight rail line when one of those gets abandoned. How exactly would they be “on the hook”?

  • @OldSchool from what I’ve been able to tell, it’s not property owners who are upset about this (it monetizes their property far beyond what agriculture would be able to), it’s their neighbors, primarily for typical rural vs. urban motivations.

  • Somehow, my comment yesterday didn’t make it through, so here I go again. Old School, Do you realize how many family farms are in the path of this thing? A very high percentage of the beef you eat originally comes from family farms, not huge ranches. When a power line or gas line cuts through a farm, it places some limits to the use. No permanent structure other than fencing can be built on it. No barns, working pens, etc. These easements aren’t narrow. They can be 100′ wide. Stick them side by side, and you have 200′ strip of land that has restricted use, but at least the farmer can graze it or grow needed hay. This train will NOT be using the same easements. And the power lines and gas lines won’t be abandoned. This will be another 100′ of taken out of their land. And this time, they can’t use the surface.

    As for me, I live in southern Grimes County. If they take a 100′ strip off the back of my 13 acres, I no longer will qualify for ag exemption, and my taxes triple. Currently, even minimally developed land in my area is $10,000/acre, IF you can find some for sale. Will they pay me the full value, now that my land is improved and fenced? I doubt. Can that money replace a 30 year old established, stocked pond? Not any time soon. Will the county reduce my taxes on the remaining land due to reduced value? NO. Would I be able to sell my land at anything near what it is worth now? NO Would TCR buy me out since they have reduced the value of my land to basically nothing? NO. So, I am left with high taxes that I can’t afford, on land I can’t sell, with a high speed train whizzing behind my house every hour. NO, I DON’T want this thing coming through Grimes County, and I don’t want it put off on some other family trying to make a living off their family farm, just to make some businessman comfortable on his zippy little trip up to Dallas.

  • Houstonian: I think some GOOF residents (not all) are desperate for any attention to their neighborhoods as some sort of validation that they are exceptional in some way. The Pinemont Park N Ride sale for construction of affordable housing (as an example) is adjacent to a very small section of Oak Forest (there are 18 official sections) that falls west of White Oak Bayou, and I’m pretty confident that no part of Garden Oaks is adjacent, but many GOOF residents are up in arms about it on social media and in the traditional media. However, new developments of 3 – 4 story townhomes are going up in the area next to existing rail (Fisher Homes development at Oak Forest and LouEllen starts around $468K and another development has broken ground at TC Jester just north of 34th across from Judiway postoffice). In the interest of disclosure, I am a 17 year resident of Oak Forest.

  • Which mode of transportation is best for the earth? Actually, the bus — specifically, city-to-city buses like the Greyhound.
    The bus itself gets a paltry 6 miles per gallon. The reason buses are environmentally sound is that they are usually full of people, giving it the highest miles per gallon per passenger, at 208.
    A coach bus typically carries nearly 38 passengers — making it over 70% full, according to the American Bus Association.

  • Houstonian: yes, the bulk of the track will not be in Houston, but one of the stations will be. That’s going to be pricey. How does “following existing corridors” mean anything? The HSR would be adjacent to these existing ROWs, not in them.

    Niche: HSR is built entirely differently from regular rr track in that there are no at-grade crossings. There will be over 100 miles of viaducts and bridges. The portions that are not elevated will be on 16 foot high berms with “frequent” pass-throughs (which are also bridges). The bridge-like portions will have to be re-built every 30 years. I don’t think it will be safe to have 100’s of miles of abandoned bridges over our Texas roads. That’s how taxpayers could be “on the hook”.

    TMR: how does this monetize anyone’s property?

  • @ JB3 & Joel: Legitimate concerns should be addressed by the legislature by tweaking the eminent domain process for all private companies that have such powers. That being said, its my opinion that most of your concerns are not legitimate.

    @ tejas: You need to talk to an attorney that has experience with eminent domain. I think that you’re probably underestimating the amount of leverage that you have.

  • ” That being said, its my opinion that most of your concerns are not legitimate.”
    I laughed, good one. You didn’t even address any of the prominent concerns that have been raised, expressed complete lack of regard for efficient public spending (…it doesn’t really strike me that the legislature should go out of their way to block those entities from funding any one particular boondoggle.) and swept away any HSE concerns under the rug altogether. You have a marvelous future in politics ahead of you my friend, godspeed.

  • Niche good point that landowners will have the expense of hiring lawyers and appraisers. This will be non-reimbursable

  • You know, way back in 1967, 2 guys thought they could start a business in Texas that linked it’s 3 biggest cities together in a triangle formation. They incorporated as Air Southwest. They were taken to court over their right to operate by 2 entrenched players, ( Braniff and Continental). It took the Texas Supreme Court to rule they could operate here. They didn’t even get a flight off the ground until 1971, and by then they changed the name of their business to Southwest Airlines. They didn’t make a nickel in profits in 1971 or 1972, and they even sold one of their 4 aircraft to another airline. They really only catered to business people, and had no flights on Saturdays. They used taxpayer supported airports and federally funded air traffic controllers to help their business model. When they started, most people drove their own cars or took a bus between Dallas and Houston. There was only one other airline doing what they did ( Pacific Southwest). It was basically an untried business model, and something totally new to Texas. But they had an idea, got some investors together, and went for it. I for one wish I had some shares of Southwest Airlines bought back in the early 1970’s. If I had, I’d be writing this from my beach house in Hawaii now.

  • RyanR has jumped the shark as well. This is just unthinking, rabid opposition. Ignore other arguments and hope something will stick.

  • @ joel: I’m truncating my opinion about various concerns because they are many, most of them are not realistic, and I don’t want to get lost in the weeds.

    The one concern that I think that deserves some policy attention would be to address the possibility that construction stops prior to project completion. Although very unlikely, hat’s the sort of thing that could happen on any private project along a right of way. The state could require that some amount of funds adequate to effect cleanup are held in escrow until the project is completed, and then they would be refunded. Once operations begin, though, they’re paying taxes. (Its also possible that there’s already some policy on the books about this sort of thing, and I’m just not aware of it.)

    And NO I am NOT expressing a disregard for efficient public spending. You have misread my statement. I am very critical of the manner in which various government entities at every level collect revenue for “economic development” purposes and then allocate it toward a portfolio of many boondoggles. If its not one boondoggle that’s funded, it’ll be another. However, as long as such entities and funding mechanisms are allowed to exist and operate with so little effective oversight, I do think that they and their decisions should be locally controlled because the state government has also failed to demonstrate competence or ethical behavior in this arena. And more specifically, I think that it’s very bad policy for the state government to swoop in and demand that local funds be spent or not spent on a very particular project; the reforms that need to be made are systematic in nature, not project-specific.

  • Houstonian – which arguments am I ignoring? I was answering Niche’s question about how abandoned HRS would be different from abandoned regular rail.. If it is abandoned, which I also agree is a low percentage, it will be different.

    I do think it’s an important fact that TCR will seek taxpayer dollars. Almost every article written says it will be privately funded. If they’re lying about taxpayer dollars, what else are they lying about?
    It’s also an important distinction that they will be taking new ROW. They won’t be using existing ROW, they will merely be running alongside it. This impacts a lot of land.
    It’s also important that landowners will be on the hook for lawyers and appraisers so they get a fair price. TCR keeps saying that they won’t use eminent domain unless they have to. That’s total bull. Before they make their first, low-ball offer TCR will have the power of eminent domain. Of course they hope to avoid condemnation proceedings, but everyone will know when TCR makes that first offer that they will buy that land.

    For the record, I don’t think there will be a “bailout”. I think they will get all of their money, federal, state and local upfront. It will be more of a “default”.

    I have not jumped the shark, I’m one of the few people providing links here. I am against the train and since this seems to be the topic at hand, that’s what I’m discussing. If you have a specific question or point to discuss, please bring it.

  • “The bridge-like portions will have to be re-built every 30 years. I don’t think it will be safe to have 100′s of miles of abandoned bridges over our Texas roads. That’s how taxpayers could be “on the hook”

    I think this is already the case with many miles of Texas roads already without rail – but unfortunately they are not abandoned and hundreds or thousands of cars use them daily or have to pass under them. Infrastructure in use now is not getting rebuilt every 30 years.

  • @RyanR – I think you’ve jumped the shark because you have a personal reason for being opposed that’s not being shared so you are coming up with anything and everything to argue against it. Those arguments are falling apart.

    Taxes – State of Texas has never authorized a bailout. Ever. Local governments can’t raise taxes for this without a vote. Fed dollars are going to someone for rail no matter what – it might as well be us.

    Failed, abandoned trail scenario – This is patently scare-mongering. If the train company fails, the asset will be purchased in bankruptcy at a discounted rate in which it can be operated efficiently by someone.

    ROW issues – there is no reason why utilities and rail can’t co-exist on the same ROW. Feel free to argue against the details, but not the whole project.

    Eminent domain fairness issues – the whole issue is up for debate in the legislature right now. Go talk to someone at the Capitol about the granular issues on eminent domain – don’t argue against the whole project because of that – it’s established law and arguing that point is really ineffective. In cases where the 100 foot easement (if we can’t use existing ROW) will hurt a small farmer, greater fairness should be built into the law. No one is against that.

    By following existing corridors through Houston (ie, rural / industrial Hempstead highway), impact in the city is minimized.

    The train is quieter than a semi-truck or bus, so the idea it is so disruptive to locals is really disingenuous. It also lets people go under it – so rural people aren’t’ being cut off from the other side.

    Yes, let’s be fair to property owners. BUT, the average speed on 45N is supposed to decrease to 40MPH by 2040, effectively destroying the ability to travel by car to Dallas. The rail is a way for the state to improve its transportation and maintain its relevance as an economic powerhouse. We can’t put our head in the sand like you would argue we do.

  • @RyanR – Also, no one said taxpayers would be paying for the station in Houston. That’s a big logical jump.

  • You may think the fact that we can’t maintain our current infrastructure is a good reason to add more infrastructure that we can’t maintain. I don’t.

    Bridges have a shorter lifespan than roadways. Regular maintenance can increase the lifespan somewhat, but the HSR viaducts, berms and bridges will not last forever.

  • Houstonian, I will gladly share my personal reasons for being against the HSR. Firstly, and what brought it to my attention, the utility corridor line on the map goes right over my house. I don’t think they will take my house, however, since the line is very wide.

    Secondly, I don’t think it’s feasible financially.


    I clearly said I don’t think there will be a bailout. I think there will be a default.

    I clearly said that I think there is a small chance of it being abandoned. I also clearly said that I was answering a question about the difference between the abandonment of regular rail and HSR.
    There are many issues why the utility lines and the HSR can’t exist in the same ROW. The utility lines would have to be rebuilt. The HSR would not fit underneath. Furthermore, the FRA has stated the HSR ROW would be adjacent to, not in, current ROW.

    I’m not arguing against eminent domain, I’m saying that TCR is saying they won’t use eminent domain except as a last resort. That is total bull. If they are denied the right to eminent domain, the project will not occur.

    I don’t think I said anything about noise. But yes, it will be louder than no train at all, especially in the countryside.

    The mayor of Dallas has said that the cities of Dallas and Houston will pay for portions of the project. It’s a bigger jump to think the station will be historic looking than to think that the city will pay for at least a part of it. But yes, we don’t know. There is a lot we don’t know about this project.

    You say “we” talking about the HSR. What is your personal interest?

  • And talk about scaremongering – not being able to drive to Dallas in 2040 – that’s scaremongering.

  • Ryan, my only interest is to not live in a city and state overtaken by gridlock. I have no personal financial interest in the railroad. If you are in the right of way, they will move your house to a nearby location. But, we all live near transportation and the state as a whole benefits from the economic activity it brings. Please consult with your legislators regarding fair tweaks to eminent domain law. Consult with an attorney if they don’t give you a fair price.

  • @ RyanR: If we can agree that it is very unlikely that the tracks will be abandoned outright then it is very difficult to identify an objection to the project getting financed. And moreover, reasonable regulatory requirements should pose low hurdles for the project. At that stage, the worst that can possibly happen if projections are not met is that it will fall into different ownership and that the number of departures per day are reduced. That’s still yielding a public good.

  • Houstonian, they won’t be moving anyone’s house to a nearby location. That’s not how it works.

    Niche, I do not agree that it’s good policy to build a HSR using federal loans and state and local economic tools on the tiny chance it will be financially viable.

    Neither of you has any understanding of the impact this will have on rural areas.

  • NIMP – not in my pasture

  • Not In My Back fortY

  • Very good work Shady Heightster. But you make too much sense and aren’t reactionary enough in your thought process for this bunch of trolls.