TEXAS CENTRAL HAS NEARLY A THIRD OF PROPERTIES NEEDED FOR BULLET TRAIN, IT SAYS
Would-be bullet train builder Texas Central tells the Chronicle’s Dug Begley it has secured nearly a third of the properties it needs for the planned rail line between Houston and Dallas. But Begley notes that company “ officials have not specified where those tracts are located or how much of the 8,000 [required] acres they include.” The train developer is currently negotiating with landowners to buy up parcels along the route. As for plan B: “Though state lawmakers essentially have barred the company from using state authorities to condemn property, Texas Central maintains it has some options via federal authorities as a railroad, under Texas law.” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of Texas Central public hearing at Woodard Elementary School, Cypress: Marc Longoria via Swamplot Flickr Pool
COMMENT OF THE DAY: LET THE COLLEGE STATION LAND RUSH BEGIN! “The station in Roans Prairie is a developer’s dream: high-speed rail, new I-14 interstate, and miles and miles of undeveloped land. The master-planned communities will start popping up in no time. Work in the city (Houston or Dallas) and live out in the country on your acreage homestead. Just wait, the Bryan-College Station-Huntsville MSA will see the fastest population growth in the entire nation for years and years to come.” [ Thomas, commenting on Proposed High-Speed Rail Line’s Bryan—College Station Station Would Be 27 Miles East of Texas A&M] Map of proposed Brazos Valley Station: Federal Railroad Administration
The only planned stop between Houston and Dallas on the proposed high-speed rail line shows up 27 miles east of College Station in a new report from the Federal Rail Road Administration. The map at top shows a rough outline of the Brazos Valley Station along Highway 30, as well as its surroundings in Roans Prairie, the small town that would host it.
Roans Prairie’s main drag is further east, off the map at the junction of highways 30 and 90. The town is currently home to a
Valero gas station, Family Dollar store, U-Haul dealer, and Mobile Homes for Less.
Image: Federal Railroad Administration
One of these 3 spots revealed in a report from the Federal Railroad Administration will be the planned site for the Houston-Dallas high-speed rail line’s Houston terminal. All 3 are near the intersection of the 610 Loop and the BNSF rail tracks that run parallel to Hempstead Rd. just south of 290.
In the map at top, the station takes the land directly north of the
Northwest Transit Center, where an industrial complex home to Icon Electric, Engineering Consulting Services, and others exists now. Hempstead Rd. is shown fronting Northwest Mall at the top of the plan.
Another proposal puts the station in the spot where the mall is now:
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Bullet Train Station
HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN PUTTING THE BRAKES ON ALL THOSE LAWSUITS The company planning to build a bullet train between Houston and Dallas appears to be altering the legal strategy it had been using to try to get landowners to allow crews on their land to survey property along the proposed 240-mile route. Texas Tribune reporter Brandon Formby says Texas Central Partners has (including one in Harris County that withdrawn 17 lawsuits across the state had a trial scheduled for July) and settled 21 others that had sought court-ordered access. Officials of the private company now say they will seek an “open dialogue” with property owners about letting crews in. The company tells Formby it has already reached land-purchase options with more than 3,000 landowners, accounting for 30 percent of the total number of parcels it needs, and 50 percent in the 2 counties along the route adjacent to Harris County: Grimes and Waller. The company announced last week that the train is now expected to begin operating in 2023. [Texas Tribune; Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Map of proposed high-speed rail routes: Texas Central Railway
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY ISN’T LONG AND SKINNY ALWAYS OUT OF STYLE? “Maybe it is just me, but I feel like the folks that are for the high speed rail are the same people that are against the Dakota pipeline. The HSR will undoubtedly have large environmental concerns for the state.” [ Bocepheus, commenting on High Speed Rail Case Heads to Trial] Illustration: Lulu
HIGH SPEED RAIL CASE HEADS TO TRIAL A trial has been set for July 3rd for the case over the would-be bullet train between Houston and Dallas, Kyle Hagerty reports today. Judge Halbach denied bullet train developer Texas Central a preliminary injunction it had requested, which would have forced some unenthused landowners along the proposed rail route to allow the company surveying access to their properties. The surveying is only one of the hangups currently facing the project; in addition to delays on the project’s environmental impact studies, Hagerty writes that the rail company “admitted to having less than 1 percent of funding needed for the project,” and notes that the estimated completion date has been scooted back from 2021 to 2022 . [Houston BisNow; previously on Swamplot] Map of proposed high speed rail routes: Texas Central
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE HIGH-SPEED RAIL BUBBA RESCUE SCENARIO “HSR going bankrupt isn’t the worst deal around. Consider: TCR takes a bunch of Japanese + hedge fund money, fails to pay off capital costs, goes into receivership, forfeits the right-of-way to the state for failure to pay back taxes, TxDOT leases right-of-way for 99 years to a consortium of investors led by Tilman Fertitta, after which all trains have cocktails and coconut shrimp served on board. I wouldn’t complain.” [ Purple City, commenting on Land Purchases Beginning Along Proposed Houston-to-Dallas Bullet Train Route]
LAND PURCHASES BEGINNING ALONG PROPOSED HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN ROUTE Texas Central Railway’s CEO tells Realty News Report’s Ralph Bivins that owners of some properties in the projected path of the planned Houston-to-Dallas 200mph rail line have already agreed to sell their land to the company, which is hoping to get started on construction of the 90-minute route next year. Tim B. Keith says he’s “encouraged with the progress” of what he refers to as the project’s “ voluntary land purchase program.” He notes that “Texas’ Constitution and state statutes have long granted eminent domain authority to railroads such as Texas Central, as well as pipeline companies, electric power companies and other industries,” but calls eminent domain “a last resort.” The line’s Houston station is now planned for “the area along the 610 Loop between 290 and I-10″ after a Federal Railroad Administration review rejected the idea of a Downtown stop because of projected high costs and environmental impacts. [Realty News Report; Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Tokaido Shinkansen Tokyo-Osaka line:
Texas Central Railway
COMMENT OF THE DAY: LINGERING FEARS OF BEING GRAZED BY A BULLET TRAIN “The railroad needs to make 2 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.” [ , commenting on May 26, 2016 at 2:01 pm 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 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, . The company is trying to get going on acquisitions “as soon as possible” to meet an investor schedule requiring construction to start 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 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
Texas’s Department of Transportation has just announced the kickoff of a 2-year, $14 million study of options for new passenger rail service between the state’s “major metropolitan areas” and Oklahoma City. Funded by a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the state of Oklahoma, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, and TxDOT itself, the study will compare options for enhancing existing Amtrak routes and building a new high-speed rail backbone through the state, as well as the possibility of public-private partnerships, the agency says. The proposed north-south route would connect San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas to its northern neighbor. (That follows the FRA’s longstanding designation of high-speed rail corridors; the federal agency’s proposed map of the South Central region is shown above.)
But what about, um, that
other major metropolitan area nearby?
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Texas may be PICKING THE TEXAS T-BONE: NOT NUMBER ONE WITH THAT BULLET way behind other states vying for chunks of the $8 billion in stimulus money the feds are handing out for high-speed rail projects, but it’s getting in line: “ Texas is asking for $1.7 billion to speed development of a Federal guidelines for the funds make it super-fast passenger train linking Dallas to Austin to San Antonio, and with a spur to Houston. unlikely that such a big amount will be awarded to Texas, given how little preliminary work — such as environmental studies, feasibility reviews or right of way acquisition — has been done on the bullet train proposal. Still, TxDOT spokeswoman Karen Amacker said today, “it never hurts to ask,” and noted that the guidelines for the grants released in June are themselves in draft form. . . . [U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray] LaHood said even states, like Texas, who have so far done little to advance high-speed passenger rail will be considered for the grants.” [Transportation Blog, via Off the Kuff]