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Despite its recent funds, the company behind the contentious high-speed passenger rail line between Houston and Dallas may not succeed without the use of eminent domain – a power reserved for takings that serve the public interest.

Texas Central, the company working on developing a high-speed passenger rail line between Houston and Dallas, announced the procurement of $75 million in funding for the project and the hiring of a new CEO last week. This funding will certainly help Texas Central take the next steps needed to develop the rail line, but the company’s efforts may be in vain if it cannot use eminent domain to secure the land needed for the project. Some have even said that the line cannot succeed without eminent domain.

Graphic courtesy of The Dallas Morning News

Photo courtesy of The Dallas Morning News

The company recently avoided roadblocks set in place by Texas legislatures, some of whom aimed to prevent the company from using eminent domain for the high-speed rail (read our blogs about Senate Bill 1601 here and here). Texas Central has consistently advertised that it can provide better deals for landowners than a governmental agency could and that the rail uses a fraction of the fuel used by commercial aircrafts, but the thought of a privately-owned company invoking the power of eminent domain for a potentially profitable venture has galvanized many Texans against the rail. Many have joined the efforts of Texans Against High-Speed Rail, a group organized around public opposition to the rail.

“Our aim is to protect private property rights, maintain efficient modes of transportation, and prevent the wasteful use of taxpayer dollars or public subsidies for high-speed rail transportation,” the group stated in its mission statement (Click here to visit the group’s website).

Texas Central’s newly-appointed CEO Tim Keith, a Dallas resident who has nearly 25 years of experience in large-scale real estate and infrastructure project development, recognizes this local opposition to the company’s project.

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Tim Keith

“When it impacts communities and people’s land, it’s very personal,” Keith said to the Dallas Morning News, adding that he plans to better communicate the potential benefits of the project to the public.

Texas Central has submitted its rail line to the Federal Railroad Administration and is awaiting the results of an environmental impact review of the project.

Co-authored by Justin Hodge and Ayla Syed.

If you have any questions about this blog, please feel free to contact Justin Hodge at jhodge@jmehlaw.com