The proposed high-speed train that will connect Houston to Dallas still needs to acquire 70 percent of the land parcels needed to support route development, said David Hagy, Texas Central’s regional VP of External Affairs. However, acquisitions are expected to ramp up in the near future, he said.
The planned train route passes through multiple counties, including Harris, Grimes, Leon and Navarro, and includes a section west of Hwy. 290 just outside of Spring and Klein.
Texas Central has secured roughly 30 percent of the land estimated to be needed for the entire project, Hagy said at a Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce luncheon Feb. 14. That number has not changed since February 2017, when the company first announced it had contracts for about 30 percent of land parcels.
After purchasing land “pretty aggressively,” Hagy said land acquisitions slowed to a standstill because a preferred route for the high-speed train had not yet been established.
“We bought about 30 percent of the property, then we slowed down,” he said. “We got our preferred route last year, so we are actively buying now.”
Most of the land parcels that have been purchased are in Grimes and Waller counties because the route was almost certain to run through those areas, he said.
Hagy said all land purchases have been made voluntarily without using eminent domain, which gives agencies the right to seize private property, with compensation, for public use.
However, Texas Central’s authority to use eminent domain centers on its status as a railroad company that is recognized by the state—which appears to be up for contention.
The company’s website states it is incorporated as a railroad with the Texas secretary of state. But on Feb. 11, a judge in Leon County ruled that Texas Central is not a railroad or interurban electric rail and does not have eminent domain authority, according to a news release by Texans Against High Speed Rail, an advocacy group.
“This is just one example of the continued lies Texas Central ‘Railway’ has promulgated,” the group said in a statement.
Hagy said Texas Central will file an appeal for the Leon County decision.
“We are very confident we have the right of eminent domain,” he said.
Texas Central recently made further progress on the project by naming Resource Environmental Solutions as its environmental partner Feb. 4. RES will manage green infrastructure projects along the project’s route, including selecting mitigation sites that collectively improve the ecological functions of broad areas, such as near Spring and Cypress creeks, the Texas Central news release stated.
Additionally, Texas Central announced on Feb. 21 it had selected Citi and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group as financial advisers for the privately funded project to assist with securing funding.