Attempts by rural legislators and others in the path of a proposed high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas have a chance to move their cause forward Thursday at a hearing of the House Transportation Committee.
The committee is scheduled to hear public testimony on at least four bills aimed at stopping or delaying the Texas Central Partners proposal to privately fund the bullet-train line to whisk passengers between the two cities in less than 90 minutes.
Some potential roadblocks have already been approved by the Senate that could make Texas Central’s task more difficult or expensive — but none that would kill it outright.
One bill that could have done exactly that is treading water in the Senate and has not seen the light of day in any House committee.
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Senate Bill 981 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would require that Texas Central’s line be compatible with more than one bullet-train technology.
Texas Central plans to use technology from Japan’s high-speed network, which has limited compatibility with other high-speed lines.
The bills that are moving forward appear to be a “death by a thousand cuts” attack. Those to be heard by the Transportation Committee on Thursday include:
House Bill 2104, which would require Texas Central to post a bond in the amount needed to restore all real property to its original condition should the project fail.
House Bill 2163, requiring parts of the rail line to be elevated to a height of 40 feet.
House Bill 2167, saying that no state funds, credit or guarantees will be used for the project unless Texas Central grants the state a superior lien on its assets in an amount sufficient to repay the state.
House Bill 2172, a ban on use of state money to help plan, construct, maintain or operate the rail line. A companion bill, Senate Bill 977, would allow the Department of Transportation to do its usual duties of environmental review and project coordination.
Another Senate-passed bill, SB 975 sets extensive security requirements for high-speed rail.
High-speed rail’s benefits are ignored in this fight. Lawmakers should weigh those benefits and reject the attacks.