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Image of Japanese Shinkansen Bullet Train. Image courtesy of InsideJapanTours.com.

Construction of the much anticipated 200 mile-an-hour Houston to Dallas Bullet Train may begin as early as next year. Despite strong support from the State Government, the $15 billion project is not entirely free from controversy. Proponents of the train argue that the train’s constructor, Texas Central Partners, will take no public money for the project, and that taxes on fares could net $3 billion into the State’s budget annually. They also point out that the construction would mean direct spending of as much as $36 billion, a capital deployment that would create tens of thousands of construction jobs. Based on proposed plans, the train will likely bridge stations located near Houston’s Northwest Mall and the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas.

Though route finalization has yet to occur, there are other signs of project progress. Texas Central Partners has joined forces with the Amtrak Corporation, which already has an established interstate network within the Texas. Additionally, the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) has approved the draft environmental impact statement. The FRA has also proposed a route it believes to be optimal for its perceived minimum impact on landowners. Additionally, multiple engineering and construction firms have joined Texas Central Partners to lay the groundwork for construction.

But the project isn’t in the clear yet. Despite the assurance of private funding, the cost of a high-speed rail still remains incredibly expensive, and concerns exist regarding the ability of the project to complete within costs. Indeed, there is some evidence to support these reservations. For example, the costs for the bullet train project in California have currently risen to a staggering $77 billion, with projections that the cost could rise to $100 billion. In 2008, project costs were only projected to be $40 billion. Texas Central Partners asserts that its use of private funds and its high level of government support, will allow them to avoid the issues that have impeded previous projects.

Much of the opposition to the train comes from landowners located along the project’s proposed route. Justifiably, they are concerned with the possibility that Texas Central Partners will use the power of eminent domain to forcibly take the property necessary for the train. Texas Central Partners has responded to these concerns by announcing that they will offer the landowners fair market value for the land they acquire, as well as generally trying to keep landowner impact to a minimum. Landowner interests remain unconvinced however, and have proposed twenty pieces of legislation, all operating in some way to inhibit the project’s development. Of these twenty, only two, which prohibit the use of public funds for construction, have passed.

Whatever the project’s eventual construction date, landowners along the train’s route should be aware of the definite progress the project is making.

Written by Jack Brasher, Christopher Chan, and Justin Hodge.