As land acquisitions roll in, construction likely near for high-speed rail in Texas: 5 things to know about the project

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Despite some public criticism—and even doubt if the project will come to pass—the proposed high-speed rail project between Houston and Dallas is on the fast track to becoming a reality, according to an official with the company leading the project.

“It’s going to get built,” said Michael Moore, regional vice president of external affairs at Texas Central, the company spearheading the effort. “The project is moving forward.”

Speaking at the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Forum on Wednesday, June 20, Moore said he expects construction will begin by the end of 2019 and take about five years to complete.

“There are 14 million trips a year between Houston and Dallas, and 90 percent of these are by car,” Moore said, adding that traffic congestion is expected to worsen as the state’s population grows.

“We need transportation alternatives,” he said. “The freeways can only grow so much.”

The project hit a significant milestone on Dec. 15 when the Federal Railroad Administration signed a draft environmental impact statement outlining a preferred route for the proposed railway.

The project has also made headway on land acquisitions from individual landowners. As of now, 30 percent of the land parcels from Houston to Dallas and 50 percent of the parcels in Grimes, Waller and Madison counties are contracted. The land is bought above fair market value, not rented, Moore said.

Along with landowner meetings, Texas Central representatives have started having initial conversations with school districts along the route.

“We’ve already met with Cy-Fair ISD and Houston ISD, and we are trying to schedule [a meeting] with Spring Branch ISD,” Moore said.

The objective of the meetings are to make sure the railway will not interfere with students commuting to school, he said.

There are three passenger stations proposed along the route in Dallas, Grimes County and Houston.

Here are five quick facts regarding the high-speed rail project, according to Moore and Texas Central:

1. The Texas Bullet Train

Texas Central will use Shinkansen trains. There will be 400 seats on each train, spaced two-by-two. The aisle will be wide enough for a wheelchair to pass.

2. Job creation

A total of 10,000 jobs will be created during the construction phase and 1,500 direct jobs will be created when the trains are operational.

3. Building stations from the ground up

The stations will use new technology, such as facial recognition, for security purposes. An app will also be available to let passengers book their transportation to the train and order lunch to have it delivered to their seats prior to their arrival.

4. Train schedule

One train will leave Houston and one will leave Dallas every 30 minutes. Trains will be shut down every night for six hours for maintenance.

5. Tickets

Tickets are expected to cost less than airline tickets and will be cheaper the earlier they are bought. A student program will be offered, as well. If a passenger misses a train, they will be automatically booked for the next available seat.

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COMMENT
  1. Glenn A. Mannina

    Michael Moore in a public meeting is also the guy who clearly displayed he does not know the difference between using “Parcels” as a measurement of progress of Land Acquisition vs. True Miles of Land Under Track or ROW. When a single “Parcel” can represent distance of land for track to be laid from a 60’wide single lot “Parcel” (Around 60 lots/”Parcels” with an Option Agreement in a Single Subdivision) across a Subdivision in Grimes County to 5000′ of distance of land for track or ROW on a Single 200 Acre “Parcel”, AND Michael Moore told us we would only ever Hear from Texas Central the Misleading Progress number in “Parcels” and NOT Miles of Land for Track or ROW, then I personally would not believe anything Micheal Moore has to say about this project so this entire article, as provided by Michael Moore’s data is of ZERO Competence, Validity, or Use to the Public. He does not even understand SIMPLE MATH or is just telling lies to the public, AND Both are Bad for Him. Texas Central’s attempt at making the Public think they own 50% of the land in Waller and Grimes County based on their dumb and inaccurate “Parcels” Measurement of progress is totally a 100% False Indication to the Public. In fact, at a minimum, 80% of the Land that Track could be laid on or ROW through Option to Purchase agreements in the 8 rural Counties is owned by Landowners who have not even allowed Texas Central to Survey their property, much less are willing to sell to them. Without Eminent Domain, which Texas Central clearly does not have, AND will not, AND can’t prove to any Landowner that they possess ED Power, this project is a Choo Choo to NOWHERE. I have a long list of misleading statements and lies from Texas Central with the data to refute each and every one of them, so folks, do not believe these people. They are full of propaganda and talking points, that is ALL. Anybody who wants the TRUTH, attend an Opposition Meeting instead of just listening to these people Lie to the Public.

    I suggest this Newspaper FACT CHECK anything that comes out of Texas Central without just printing it as fact. When you do that, you have a 100% chance you are spreading FALSE information, and FAKE NEWS to the Public. Shame on you for your Journalistic unethical misreporting and incompetence in the profession of Journalism without Verification. When are you all going to let the Opposition have EQUAL TIME. If you want to Do what is Right, contact Texans Against High Speed Rail, Kyle Workman (President), and get some statements or information from that group. Void of that, this Newspaper is as Unethical as Texas Central, which is the most Unethical Company I have ever been associated with in my 34 years of professional business.

  2. Talk about Community NEGATIVE Impact! Your organization is clearly connected to the train people. Definitely not connected to the truth.
    I urge readers to educate yourselves through non-biased sources.

    • Thank you for reading the article and for your comments. Our reporter wrote this story as a follow-up to a committee meeting of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce, where Michael Moore spoke and provided an update on the project.

      In past reporting, we have captured concerns of those who have spoken out against the project: https://communityimpact.com/houston/cy-fair/city-county/2018/02/06/305510/ We take our unbiased reporting very seriously and will continue to report on Texas Central throughout the railway’s development. If you have any additional questions or believe there are any inaccuracies in our reporting, please do not hesitate to contact us at pressdesk@communityimpact.com. You can also email me directly at mstephens@communityimpact.com.

      Sincerely,
      North Houston Managing Editor Matt Stephens

  3. Donovan Maretick

    Where has good reporting gone? Why do they simply allow Texas Central to spew their marketing materials as if they are fact without any type of vetting. Let’s get this straight, Texas Central does not have 30 to 50 percent of the property needed. They speak in parcels which could be one lot or 2000 acres. They should release how many track miles of the 240 miles needed. That number is 15%. Also how can they be that close to completion when today they can’t even survey property unless they have the landowners express written permission. If they had eminent domain authority then they could survey but the simple truth is they do not. This is why they are currently trying to get the Federal Surface Transportation Board to oversee the project so they can obtain ED authority and then they can seek federally secured loans. STB turned them down last time. Again don’t believe the hype and marketing materials. The lipstick is wearing off this pig quickly!

  4. Now Community Impact Newspaper, Here are some Facts for You to Check Out based on Texas Central’s Regional VP of External Affairs, David Hagy (All of Mr. Hagy’s Comments were made on Video immediately following the Grimes County Press Conference on March 1, 2018, by the newly formed 8 County Sheriffs’ Coalition in Opposition to the Texas Central HSR): #1. Mr. Hagy Stated Texas Central is Privately Funded and Without Any Public Funding. That is 100% False, Texas Central has obtained less than 1% (of the total almost $20B investment) of Private Funding. Up to 2/3rds is from Japanese Banks and Japanese Government or other entities AND 1/3rd will come form US Taxpayer Funded Railroad Loans (RRIF & TIFIA). This project will go bankrupt and the 1/3 will be a secondary Creditor putting the Loans 100% at risk. Also, payment on these loans does not have to be paid for 5 years AFTER Construction. It will be Bankrupt by that point (See the Reason Foundation Report on this Project who also predicted the huge failure of the California HSR Project. #2. Mr. Hagy Stated Texas Central is a RR because we are a Common Carrier. Again, 100% false. Look at the Summary Judgement of the Calvin House Lawsuit in Harris County where the Judge ruled Texas Central is NOT a RR, Does NOT have Survey Rights, and has been unable to prove they possess Eminent Domain (ED) powers. Also, the Japanese have a Proprietary Safety Management System Technology that does not allow other companies to connect or use their infrastructure just like what is done with overseas HSR AND with Freight RRs (you see all the time other company’s product being transported on BNSF RR including train engines and other rolling stock) in the US, not to mention the carrying of O&G product or Power through other companies Infrastructure. #3. Mr. Hagy stated Texas Central had never had any reported cases of their Surveyors Trespassing on Private Property without permission. Again, 100% False. We have records of such. This data was forwarded to US Representative Kevin Brady who then forwarded it to the US DOT prior to the FRA release of the DEIS. #4. Mr. Hagy stated Texas Central has purchased 30% of the Parcels across the entire route and 50% of both Grimes and Waller Counties. Again, 100% misleading and an attempt to portray a 100% False message to the public of the Progress of the distance of land under Options Contracts. See my other response to you for the reason PARCELS is an Inaccurate Mathematical Measure of distance of ROW ownership. #5. Mr. Hagy stated Texas Central will use ED as a “Last Resort”. Again, Texas Central has been unwilling and/or Unable to prove to any Landowner they possess ED which is very easy for Utility and O&G transportation companies to prove this power. So, they are using it as a Last Resort BECAUSE they do NOT Possess ED Power TODAY. #6. Mr Hagy stated Texas Central is Negotiating Openly. Again, 100% False. Does it sound like that when we have Testimony from Landowners that the FIRST time they sat down with Texas Central regarding their land, Texas Central laid down an offer, said it was a take it or leave it, and said they had ED and Condemnation powers so they should take that offer or they would condemn their property! #7. Mr. Hagy stated for all of those who see or hear the train, Texas Central is trying to be a Good Neighbor. Again, 100% False. The HSR is 300′ OFF of my property and on August 16, 2016, Mr. Ken Williams of Contract Land Services who represented land surveying and land acquisition activities for Texas Central called me by phone at 4:00 pm and asked me for the right to Survey my property. After I verified with him that the HSR was NOT on my property, I denied his request. Immediately, he told me Texas Central would likely send me a Legal Letter, and would file a Legal Injunction against me thereby keeping me from preventing Texas Central from surveying my property. I have that conversation totally documented. #8. Mr. Hagy Stated Texas Central is like other Common Carriers and the State of Texas gave them ED Powers. Again, 100% False. There are TWO State Statutes that Texas Central must have met to possess ED including Texas SB 18, and Texas Central Failed to meet both State Statutes. Also, No State Regulatory Body Exists to have given Texas Central ED Powers. The Common Carrier piece was proven false in my number 2 above. #9. Mr. Hagy stated Texas Central has minimized the Impact by Following Along the Utility Corridor for 50% of the route. Mr. Hagy also stated Texas Central has selected routes to minimize the use Private Property as much as possible. His first statement is 100% misleading and the second statement makes no sense. Going adjacent to the Utility Corridor has not minimized any impact as there exists native Texas Habitat adjacent to the Corridor which is the same case if the HSR was crossing Texas out in the middle of nowhere. On the second issue, Texas Central has to use ONLY PRIVATE PROPERTY except where they are using State or City ROW which is very minimal across the entire route. They have no choice but to substantially use Private Property. They are in no way using any land that is already within the Utility Corridor already used by the Utilities and Pipeline Easement Companies who own them. #10. Mr. Hagy stated Texas Central knew of NO SUMMARY JUDGEMENT Court Case Against Texas Central. Again, 100% FALSE. Look at the Calvin House Summary Judgement Court case yourself and READ the words of the Judge to Texas Central (Not a RR, No right to Survey, Not an Operating RR and therefore NO ED). #11. Mr Hagy stated Texas Central will have minimal Impact to Emergency Response Times. Again, 100% False. Please read the Constructability Section of the FRA DEIS document which includes Tables of Increases of Emergency Response Times when they evaluated for all EMS areas across the route the Road Modifications and Changes (240 Roads to be Modified) to take place across the 240 mile route. This was ONLY a Paper exercise, did not include detailed Modeling of the new Road routes/detours, and did not take into account the New Traffic due to heavy hauling of raw materials, equipment, and the increases of traffic due to Workers traveling not only to the HSR route every day but also to the many several hundred Acre Construction pre-cast concrete sites located on just about Every E-W major road Corridor along the entire route. #12. Mr. Hagy stated We (Texas Central) do Not Cross a Road, and We Always Pass OVER a Road. Again, 100% False. Texas Central’s HSR will require modification of around 240 roads along their preferred route. Additionally, State FM and County CR roads are being Closed and Rebuilt OVER THE HSR in many places. This is described in tables located in the FRA DEIS document. #13. Mr. Hagy stated We (Texas Central) previously worked with local Sheriffs in 2016 in preparation of the DEIS. Again, 100% False. The only contacts Texas Central had with the County Sheriffs at that time was because of the many Landowner Reports to these Sheriffs regarding Illegal Trespassing onto Private Property by their Surveyors and by Landowners reporting Intimidation and Threat techniques being used by Texas Central against them. In fact, this is exactly why the 8 County Sheriffs formed a Coalition Against Texas Central and its HSR project. They have clearly stated their Coalition was formed based on lack of Texas Central’s work with them on road rerouting and detours, specifically it was formed due to their concerns for Public Safety, Emergency Response, and Quality of Life of their Constituents free from Intimidation and Threats.

    I have more data if you want more, but this helps prove Texas Central is the most Unethical Company I have run across in my 34 years of professional business activities….Glenn A. Mannina

    • But you get your information from the Reason Foundation, which is to say, the oil companies. They don’t want the competition, so they make up all kinds of tall tales that have little to do with reality.
      The Expo line in Los Angeles was supposed to have 27,000 riders per day by 2020. When it opened in 2012, Reason Foundation went and counted the daily riders during the first week. They then declared that the first week’s daily ridership, at 9,000, was the peak that the line would ever achieve and the projected 2020 ridership was an impossible fantasy. Ridership exceeded 27,000 a day by 2013.
      Last year they reached 64,000 passengers a day, which is the 2030 projection. I have yet to hear a retraction from Reason, nor do I expect to.
      Reason Foundation has also claimed that the Tokaido Shinkansen is an economic failure, although the profits exceed $2 billion a year according to JR Central’s annual report. But it doesn’t sell enough gasoline, so it doesn’t do what Reason thinks is worthwhile.
      This is Reason Foundation’s consistent pattern. They come in on the early phase of a rail project, predict gloom and doom, and when the project succeeds they ignore it and go predict more doom and gloom on the next project. The fact that they’re consistently wrong doesn’t bother them one bit.
      And they’ll be wrong here, too. Just like always.
      Texas Central is a public utility company and has the same right of eminent domain as any pipeline, power or railroad company. If you’re obsessed by the idea that the trains aren’t running yet, that can be easily fixed by building a short stretch of track on the property they’ve already acquired and running trains. There are ways around semantic games, too.

      • Donovan Maretick

        Give us a break. The Reason Report is far from the only evidence showing that this is a boondoggle so stop kidding yourself. No high speed rail in the world besides possibly the Tokyo line has ever been profitable when you include construction costs. If you compare population density between Dallas/ Houston and Tokyo then you can see there is a night and day difference. Plus do you really have any skin in the game like us landowners and home owners?

    • Curtis Garrison

      Keep posting all that misinformation only to try to spread fear, hate, and anger against this train and you will only cause any real concerns, that should and could be worked out, to loose all credibility. More and more people are listening to all your nonsense and further realizing how EPIC this train is and a huge opportunity for EVERYONE! BulletTrainsUSA.com!!!

      • Curtis…you sound like a broken record. Is that your standard response? They aren’t spreading “fear, hate and anger”…they are spreading FACTS. None of the 111 HSR systems in the World are profitable…they all lose money and this will be NO exception. They claim to be privately funded…yet they are seeking Federal loans. The claim to be a railroad…but they don’t qualify as one under the Texas Transportation Code…and they don’t own a single rail car or a foot of track. if built, this boondoggle will have a huge financial impact….ALL NEGATIVE !

  5. TCR has Eminent Domain, they were granted ED by the Texas Legislature, Section 131.011 of the Texas Transportation Code, which defines “interurban electric railway company” as a corporation chartered under Texas law to conduct and operate an electric railway between two municipalities in Texas. That section provides that such a company may exercise eminent domain powers the same as a railroad company and may condemn to acquire right-of-way on which to construct and operate rail lines, as well as sites for depots and power plants. An interurban electric railway company with the power of eminent domain, has the right to examine and survey without statutory limitations.

    • Donovan Maretick

      If this is the case, then why can they not survey my property? Do you realize that They need to survey all of the land in order to build this nightmare. This is why Sheriffs from eight of the ten counties formed a coalition to protect their citizens from having their land trespassed on and protecting their safety. If they had eminent domain, then why would the sheriffs form this coalition? https://www.google.com/amp/www.theeagle.com/news/local/eight-of-sheriffs-along-proposed-high-speed-rail-line-say/article_fc56ee15-ad1d-5ea6-beec-d6fddc5f392b.amp.html

    • No there were NOT given ED – read thoroughly, the post by Glenn Mannina just above your incorrect post.

    • Christie Parker

      Your assertion is incorrect. If you believe this to be true concerning interurban electric railroad then they have to complete construction within one year. How would this happen if Michael Moore is stating 5 years. Please read the statutes as I have since I studied it extensively in the Harris County case where the judge ruled they were not a railroad, did not possess eminent domain and had no right to survey property. There are many rules to interurban electric railroad which they cannot comply with. Read the law!!!

    • Sometimes I wonder what people use as their favorite dictionary. Apparently, yours defines “whiners” as being well-informed, Tax-laying citizens that consistently quote verifiable facts and statutes when they debate an issue, rather than regurgitated propaganda that has no basis in fact. Also the word “progress” must be defined as pursuing private real estate ventures, under the guise of “public need” when, in fact, no such need exists, even if the cost of such projects will far outweigh any possible income generated by it.

    • Curtis Garrison

      We support this train 100%!!!! Texas Bullet Train Advocates Facebook group and BulletTrainsUSA.com! Our country is stuck in the Fred Flintstones era while many many much more advanced countries are moving further into the future like Star Trek! It’s a slap in the face at how decrepit, underfunded, and neglected our infrastructure is!

  6. Apparently Texas Central must be paying this publication a lot of money for them to abandon any sense of journalistic integrity that they might’ve possessed. In the “ad” the writer refers to the DEIS as a “milestone”….it’s more like a joke, in case anyone took the time to read it. Commonly referred to as a “desktop” study, it’s 5000+ pages of boilerplate BS, very little of which was actually verified by boots on the ground. The only reason that the FRA “recommended” one of the build options is because NOWHERE in that report will you find any financial analysis…no “Ridership and Revenue” section such as the one I’m the Florida DEIS. Why is that? It’s simple! You cannot name one single high speed rail project, in the entire WORLD, that operates at a profit…not one! A lot of those systems overseas operate in areas that have extreme population densities…over 50,000 people per square mile. Houston and Dallas are more like 3500 folks per square mile. Most Texans own a vehicle, unlike the average French or Japanese citizen. If it won’t work under those conditions, it surely won’t work here without Billions of dollars in government subsidies, on top of the federal loans that it will take to even build this boondoggle. That’s right! This project IS NOT privately funded as you have been led to believe. As far as eminent domain goes, Texas Central would have to first qualify as a “railroad” before you could attempt to apply electric railway regulations. And, as several have pointed out already…they do not! Wake up people…you are being lied to. This thing may not be in your back yard but, if built, it WILL be on your back pocket!

  7. Facts not Propaganda

    This article reads like a straight propaganda piece. Please do some original research before regurgitating the bullet points provided by the subject of the article.

    This project is laughable. Supposed construction time-line once they actually put a shovel in the ground is 7 years. They admit that they are at least 2 years from commencing meaningful construction. So who’s buying a train ticket to Dallas in 2027?

    So many aspects of this project are so far off the mark. Who is going to drive (or Uber or self driving car) to 290/610 (where they supposedly want to put the station but still have not secured a site), arrive an hour early to go through air port level security, hope there are no delays on departure, then ride 90 minutes to Dallas, then rent a car, hail an Uber etc. to your final stop?

    Even if security is ‘fast’ let’s say it’s an average 20 minute drive in light traffic to the station for Houstonians, 30 minutes for check in/security and a 90 minute train ride. Congratulations, you just spent nearly 2.5 hours getting there. Today, without significant self driving tech, it takes 3.5 hours to get to Dallas. In 9 years I’m pretty sure I’ll hop in my Google car/Tesla/Honda and at minimum not have to touch the steering wheel on the Freeways, and likely make far better time than one can today.

    High speed rail works in Asia/Europe because the cities are very close together and the network easily branches to serve multiple city centers all interconnecting. They can’t even justify a fork or route through Austin or SA on this because of lack of demand and increased costs and the distance between locations.

    Last, and as others have already pointed out, they are missing massive stretches of land that are required, and unfortunately for them, this is not against mom and pops you can just waive the threat of ED in front of. The instant they try to actually pull the eminent domain card on some of these wealthy ranch owners in the path, the project is going to hit years of lawsuits against people with the money and connections to fight it.

    They want to build a project through Texan’s private land, without consent, at enormous costs for a problem that won’t exist by the time its finished. Its a project that requires legislative support (even though its a private project), and even if construction starts, elections will then be won or lost based on support for this thing. 9 years is too long, and that’s based on their own target schedule.

    Also, did I mention that they tout that the project breaks even after, wait for it; ten years of projected ticket sales. And that’s based on their own favorable projections of ridership. Who is investing in a project that breaks even in 2039? This is a project that could, in theory, deliver some very handsome contracts to the trade industries, concrete and raw materials groups and line the pockets of the principals with their salaries over the next decade. That is it. They even lost interest from their Spanish investors (Ferrovial) over a year ago who are well known investors for many of the US’ highway infrastructure projects.

    Acting like this thing is a go to drive public support is sad. At least admit the roadblocks you need to tackle instead of this fake-it-til-you-make-it charade you have been putting on for the last, what, 5 years?

  8. Curtis Garrison

    If you support the Texas Central – The Texas Bullet Train, please consider joining the Facebook group I organize, Texas Bullet Train Advocates and check out the Bullet Trains USA Facebook page as well as the web site BulletTrainsUSA.com!

  9. Who would want to ride a train, when autonomous cars for hire will be out in a few years to do this in complete privacy for less and with service to your door?

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Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.
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