Leon County Judge Rules Bullet Train Company Can’t Use Eminent Domain on Account of It’s Not Really a ‘Railroad’ Yet

LEON COUNTY JUDGE RULES BULLET TRAIN COMPANY CAN’T USE EMINENT DOMAIN ON ACCOUNT OF IT’S NOT REALLY A ‘RAILROAD’ YET On Friday, the judge for Texas’s 87th District Court declared that Texas Central, the company planning a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, cannot use eminent domain to snatch up land within Leon, Freestone, or Limestone counties — 3 of the 10 counties that the train’s proposed 240-mile route is set to traverse. Texas law does allow “railroads” to use eminent domain in seizing land for projects, it’s just that Texas Central doesn’t actually count as a one in the court’s view because it hasn’t actually laid any track yet and doesn’t currently operate any trains. “Texas Central is appealing the Leon County judge’s decision,” the company tells the Chronicle‘s Dug Begley, “and meanwhile, it is moving forward on all aspects of the train project.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map of proposed bullet train route: Texas Central

27 Comment

  • So in the judges opinion a kids train in the mall is a railroad?

  • This is so disappointing. When are we going to stop letting these small-minded people rob us of our future? If they don’t want progress, then fine, they can stay in their backward little towns, but we shouldn’t let them prevent other people from bettering themselves and the state.

  • Once the judge gets enough back ganders, I’m pretty sure he will switch. Red neck hicks.

  • So? All they have to do is buy up some active short line somewhere in the state, then they become a railroad that is running trains. Problem solved.

  • These comments are just embarrassing. So smug. So self-righteous.

    Jonesy, that is the whole point: they are trying to stay in “their backwards little towns” but are being dragged into a fight because others are trying to use the government to forcibly take their property (for what is currently vaporware by a new entity without any services or a track record).

  • Does anyone have a copy of the actual order or transcript showing the judge’s ruling?

    The article is ambiguous, so it’s hard to tell, but it seems like the writer may be parroting the landowners’ view of the ruling as The Truth rather than fact-checking what the judge actually said.

  • Wow, so much vitriol for Judge Debbie. The RR doesnt even call them selves a RR, they are a “train project”. “And meanwhile, it is moving forward on all aspects of the train project” Like, what exactly?

  • Imagine what would have happened to America if judges ruled this way on the first railroad in America …. we would still be waiting

  • oh so we should involuntarily deprive people of their private property rights in the name of “progress” — a boondoggle money pit train project

    but they’re “robbing” you of your future? scratch a starry-eyed urbanist and you’ll find a wannabe despot

  • I wonder how much $$$$ in ” campaign contributions ” aka BRIBES that special interest judge has taken from the opposition interests? And/or has/does/will he do law work to STOP the high speed train project ??? He’s screwing the pooch / the fix is in !!!!

  • So much vitriol for Judge Debbie…..”meanwhile, it is moving forward on all aspects of the train project” The RR doesnt even call themselves a RR, they are a train project. Wonder what they are moving forward with, uhhh separating people from their money and land?

  • This is what happens when you elect judges. This judge knows that she has to side with the landowners if she wants to keep her job. And if it was a pipeline, the Texas Legislature would convene a special session to pass legislation to let the company move ahead with eminent domain. And when the land man knocks on these landowner’s door, they cannot wait for the fracking equipment to go in and rape their land.

  • Actually the ruling makes perfect sense. The legislation in question was written by other RR’s to stop competition, and it is the law unless someone changes it. Aside from that, the Texas Central project is actually doomed from the start. This is due to the alignment that they chose, which is longer than it should be, and which has too many curves, and which raises the risk or derailment at high speeds. Also, the project destroys thousands of acres of greenfield in between the two cities. The acres outside of Houston for instance, have been slated for development for decades and have the potential to generate far more taxable revenue to the City and County than the terminus at the ill conceived site of Northwest Mall. The terminus will contain a huge parking garage and some low paying service jobs and is impossible to get to due to access issues. The owner of the site already received a huge condemnation award and could care less what happens to it, so if the project happens, it should be down the Hardy Toll Rd to Downtown. Post Office site still available…..

  • The hate this project engenders is so strange…

    How many railroads exist in Texas and used eminent domain to get their Right of Ways?

    How many pipelines exist in Texas and used eminent domain to get their Right of Ways?

    For every landowner on the route that doesn’t want to sell their land there are others who do. Texas is a massive place and I don’t buy the idea that the holdouts land is so special they couldn’t get something similar 10 miles down the road.

    Imagine how much easier this would be if it was done 20 years ago, and how much harder it will be 20 years from now.

  • 1. I think there is some logic in the ruling that a railroad entity should actually own some railroad before being allowed to use the eminent domain power. Otherwise, I could hatch an LLC tomorrow (“Texas Tooting Trains, LLC”) and start using that power all over the place.
    2. Someone else noted that Texas Central could buy up the mangiest short-line it can find and – voila – it is now a railroad. Enjoy your eminent domain power.
    3. I’m okay with judges being elected – while not perfect, it allows some checks from the popular vote. Judges have to also be able to have their rulings stand up on appeal so it isn’t like their rulings can be all nutty.

  • It is irritating that these backwoods rural towns and counties have so much pull over something that would benefit possibly millions in the state and something that a lot of people want to happen.

  • “All they have to do is buy up some active short line somewhere in the state, then they become a railroad that is running trains. Problem solved.” And yet they didnt do this already? Smart people from all over the globe, gobs of money, technology that consumers want, yet they cant check the box that they are a RR. My what infinitely smart people! :)

  • The ruling is a non-sequitur. In order to start a railroad you must exercise eminent domain to acquire the real estate. But in order to be a railroad you must have acquired the real estate via eminent domain already. I sense that this ruling will be overturned on appeal.

  • https://ksby.com/news/2019/02/12/california-governor-no-la-sf-high-speed-train

    guess we are backwards hicks huh.

    yeah other states are So great

  • If the judge actually cared about their people and the county, they would be fighting for a stop in Leon county and not stopping it all together.

  • We already have something like high speed rail between Dallas and Houston. It’s called SW Airlines.

  • “yeah other states are So great” …. well, there are plenty greater than texas at least

  • It took what became Southwest Airlines over 4 years of fighting lawsuits from other carriers to receive it’s operating certificate from the FAA. Entrenched interests always fight new challengers to their turf. It’s especially bad in the transportation realm.

  • ShadyHeighters: SWA didn’t have to take anyones land. It was a pure anti competitive push.

  • Yall bootlickers mad that the government is taking useless land in the desert to turn it into something more useful. “Free Market Efficiency” at its finest. Trains are more efficient in terms of dollar per person moved, dollar per gallon and gallon per person moved.

  • IIRC, the Texas legislature amended the eminent domain laws (in 2013-ish?) expressly to provide TCR a legal avenue for using eminent domain. It was to enable them. This happened very early on. It is very unlikely that TCR would’ve continued without it. If there is any ambiguity, and barring any more recent action by the legislature, I had thought that the spirit of the law had been clearly established by legislative intent.

  • Re eminent domain: thank the idiots that decided Kelo v. New London.
    https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/545/469.html or layman’s version at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._City_of_New_London