Opponents of a proposed privately financed high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas are using arguments that are all over the map.
Some are logically inconsistent, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The opposition, generated mainly from rural counties along the proposed route, is aimed to stop the project in any way possible.
Some North Texas legislators have joined the opposition, and they should reverse that stand.
State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, is one of five Senate Transportation Committee members who on Monday put the committee’s stamp of approval on a bill denying use of eminent domain for the rail line.
Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, has signed on as a co-author of the bill, Senate Bill 1601 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.
It’s been clear since Kolkhorst filed the bill last month that it faced a logical inconsistency in that plenty of other private railroad companies in Texas have the power of eminent domain.
Let’s be clear: Eminent domain should only be used for projects that produce a clear and substantial public benefit. Railroads meet that criteria because they are common carriers built to fill the need to transport goods and people.
But Kolkhorst apparently is clairvoyant.
She said high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas, the cores of metro areas that together include almost 14 million people, half of the state’s population, simply won’t work.
“I just don’t see it,” she told the Transportation Committee.
She tailored SB 1601 to apply only to trains “reasonably expected to reach speeds of at least 110 miles per hour.”
Another arm of opposition to the project has sought to block federal operating permission by telling lawmakers it will harm rural property owners.
“Farm and ranch land … will be divided,” says a letter from the opposition group, “creating a loss in access and a loss in revenue for those who rely on farming and ranching to make a living.”
The high-speed line will run mainly on existing right-of-way. The assumption seems to be that it will divide farm and ranch land in ways that other railroads and roadways do not.