Two Congressmen oppose high-speed rail grants, urge FRA to reject

KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 10:25 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -Two U.S. Congressmen from the Lone Star State, Rep. Michael McCaul and Rep. Jake Ellzey, have expressed their opposition to several grant applications submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration. These grant applications were jointly submitted by Amtrak and Texas Central, two companies aiming to partner to establish a 240 high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas.

Texas Central Railroad and Amtrak submitted three grant applications and a corridor identification program application focusing on rail infrastructure and intercity passenger rail.

The concerns raised by Congressman McCaul and Ellzey were disclosed in a letter addressed to Amit Bose, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, and were initially reported by The Bond Buyer, a publication specializing in municipal bonds. The primary issues they raised revolve around the potential use of taxpayer funds to support a project led by a private company, as well as concerns related to property rights and other related matters.

In their letter, addressed to both the Federal Railroad Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation, the congressmen emphasized the importance of safeguarding landowners’ rights, particularly in the context of what they perceive as an unrealistic and financially unviable rail project.

“If approved, these applications will result in taxpayer money being used by a private company to take private land from landowners through eminent domain. Landowners deserve to have their land rights protected against the unrealistic and financially infeasible rail project proposed to be funded through these applications,” the letter stated.

Representatives McCaul and Ellzey also highlighted that the project has significant opposition from rural landowners and local governments along its proposed route.

“By partnering with Texas Central, organized as a private limited liability corporation, Amtrak will funnel federal taxpayer money to a private corporation for what was initially proposed as an exclusively privately funded venture. The project has received fierce pushback from rural landowners as well as county and local governments along the proposed route,” the letter added.

In their letter, the congressmen also brought attention to the project’s heavy reliance on a train exclusively manufactured in Japan. Additionally, they noted the unique track system proposed for this project is incompatible with the existing U.S. rail infrastructure.

“Since 2009, when the project was first proposed, Texas Central has secured very few parcels of property and is attempting to acquire private property using eminent domain. It will exclusively run a type of train manufactured only in Japan using a unique track that is incompatible with any existing system in the United States,” the letter said.

KBTX reached out to Congressman McCaul who represents portions of the Brazos Valley, but he was unavailable to address the letter. A copy of the full letter is below.