In a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, Grimes County Commissioners voted to require a permit for any type of structure crossing a county road or right of way.
This decision came after many residents’ expressed concern over losing property or having property split in two as the high speed rail comes through Grimes County.
Texas Central Railroad is proposing a high speed bullet train to run from a station in the area of Northwest Mall in Houston to the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex with trains running 30 minutes during peak times, and every hour on non-peak times, with a 6-hour window for maintenance. The 90-minute, 240-mile trip is said to be competitive with airline travel.
County Judge Ben Leman says he and commissioners just approved a plan to keep the bullet train out of his county.
“Grimes County will require a permit to be approved by Commissioner’s Court before construction can begin on any high speed rail project where it crosses a county road,” Leman said.
Residents of many counties along the line have joined the fight. Following the Commissioners Court meeting, several residents got into a heated discussion across the street from the courthouse with an official of the high speed rail company.
According to documentation, 60 percent of the track will be elevated. Some residents expressed that the 60 percent will take care of the streets and highways in Houston and Dallas. Between that was to be a grade crossing. According to Wikipedia a grade crossing, is an intersection where a railway line crosses a road or path at the same level, as opposed to the railway line crossing over or under using a bridge or tunnel. Yet the plan is to build a brim with a small tunnel under it for County Roads, and ranchers to get from one part of the property to another. One rancher compared it to the Alaskan Pipeline where wildlife would not cross under the elevated pipe. To get a fire truck, hay bailer, or combine through would be impossible. In addition, ranchers say they would have to build secondary holding pens and then hire extra hands to drive the cattle through the tunnel. Another concern was landowners with oil wells and how rig trucks would access certain parts of their property.
TCR has made two filings with the Surface Transportation Board. The first is a Petition of Exemption for construction authority and the other requesting a clarifying order from the STB under expedited consideration to be able to set condemnation land values under the Texas eminent domain process.
Brady opposes the route of the high speed rail project which splits rural communities and landowners in his congressional district. He also opposes taxpayer financial guarantees, and is fighting its designation as a federal project. As a state legislator in Texas Brady fought to protect landowners against a similar proposal for a “bullet train” by introducing legislation to prohibit the project from using eminent domain.
Brady wrote: “It is entirely unreasonable that a project without even so much as an approved route or permit to construct could be granted the authority by federal bureaucrats to use eminent domain under Texas law. Landowners should not be forced into a stressful, costly condemnation process for a project still in the planning stages and that lacks strong public support. This is a state project and should be decided by Texas.”
On July 18, 2016, Congressman Kevin Brady won some of the battle after going to the United Surface Transportation Board in Washington. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) officially declined to get involved in the Texas Central Railway (TCR) proposed Dallas-to-Houston High-Speed Rail project. U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady who is leading the congressional fight with Texans Against High-Speed Rail and local and elected officials released the following statement on the long-awaited announcement:
“This is the answer we fought for. This is the first victory in a long battle to ensure that Texas, not Washington, decides the fate of a project hurting our rural communities and landowners. I truly appreciate the efforts of our state and local officials and Texans Against High-Speed Rail who are working so diligently to protect Texans’ property rights.”
The decision by the STB indicates that the proposed approximately 240-mile high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston is an intrastate project outside of the Board’s jurisdiction — effectively recognizing that the project is a state project. Congressman Brady wrote the STB in April opposing any federal involvement in the highly controversial project because the sole proposed route divides rural counties in the 8th Congressional District including Grimes, Madison and Leon counties. As our county commissioners, state legislators, and property owners have stated correctly, this route fractures our rural lifestyle without any direct economic or transportation benefits to our communities.
In a recent letter to state legislators Brady said, “Taking property against a landowner’s will, especially land that may have been in the family for generations, is a serious matter. Because this is a state project, I am requesting your leadership in determining if Texas Central Partners has state eminent domain power. I question that it does.”
Other TCR Officials were also at the Grimes County Courthouse where after the Commissioners Court Meeting more than 100 residents gathered at the front of the courthouse in Anderson for a press conference.
Texas Central says they do have the authority and have done due diligence to make sure the rail line is profitable and completely privately funded.
“No action today changes anything in the project’s ongoing development, as a matter of fact it was a disappointment today that Grimes County chose to grow government and create inefficient path work of regulations,” said Holly Reed, Texas Central Railway Managing Director of External Affairs.
The fight is far from over. It’s too soon to say if the ultimate fate of the bullet train might be decided in a court room. Lawmakers are also expected to hear from both sides at the upcoming legislative session in Austin.
Texas Central Railway also released the following statement:
“No action today changes anything the project’s ongoing Land Purchase Program, which is proceeding particularly well in Grimes County. The Texas Constitution and the Texas Legislature determine and authorize eminent domain authority in this State. Texas statutes, as interpreted by courts and not county governments, have long granted eminent domain authority to railroads such as Texas Central, pipeline companies, electric power companies and other industries that provide the infrastructure necessary to serve the public efficiently and enjoy a healthy economy. In accordance with the authority given to it by the Texas Legislature, Texas Central is building positive relationships directly with property owners, and any use of its condemnation authority will be a last resort.” -Attributable to Texas Central.