Monthly Archives: December 2014

Quote of the Day — December 29, 2014

“We are seeking to connect the two biggest markets in the Texas region.  And two of the top ten markets in the United States for economic growth in development, that’s the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth regions.  They are both about 7 million people, and unlike your California project, there is not a lot in between.  It is pretty much open, and rural, flat, which is really why this project was identified by the consortium, the system integrator, JR Central Railways and the consortium we have that is helping to work bring this project to the United States.” –Robert Eckels, President Texas Central Railway

Head of FRA on Dallas to Houston HSR

Please see the short video of Joseph Szabo, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration discussing the Dallas to Houston HSR.  The FRA is currently preparing the EIS to evaluate route alternatives.  The video was published on November 7, 2014.

Just as a side note…Szabo will be leaving his post in January for a senior fellow position at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

Szabo Stepping Down as Head of FRA

TSCRA Position on HSR

We requested that the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association provide us with a statement on their position related to the Dallas to Houston High Speed Rail.  Here is the response we received:

“We have been discussing this issue extensively.  The TSCRA leadership is greatly concerned about the impact that this railway will have on the property rights of landowners.  We currently have policy on eminent domain fairness that will guide our efforts on this issue. The next time the association can consider new or amended policy is at the TSCRA convention in late March.  I have provided our current policy below.

Please know that TSCRA intends to stay involved in this issue and we [look] forward to staying in touch with you.

Eminent Domain Fairness

WHEREAS, it is recognized that the exercise of eminent domain powers is a valid governmental function; and
WHEREAS, it is recognized that there have been abuses by governmental and private entities possessing eminent domain powers; and
WHEREAS, the exercise of eminent domain should be appropriately limited and subject to the strict scrutiny of Texas courts; and
WHEREAS, actions to compel the taking of private property under law should
be transparent and subject to review; and
WHEREAS, it is essential that property owners be fully compensated and treated with fairness when forced to relinquish property rights; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that TSCRA supports legislation to amend the Texas Constitution and other laws to ensure fair treatment of property owners by condemnors by:

1. Providing the landowner with a written statement or certificate of the condemnor’s right to exercise eminent domain as well as a copy of the condemnor’s resolution authorizing the taking of the landowner’s property and its letter to the Texas Comptroller registering the right of eminent domain;

2. Requiring advance written notice and complete information be given to the property owner regarding the project and the rights of the property owner before any negotiations commence;

3. Requiring that the condemnor negotiate in good faith and make a good faith offer in an amount designed to induce the voluntary transfer of property rights based on appraised fair market value of the property and damage to the remainder;

4. Requiring that the condemnor furnish to the property owner the appraisal and the form of easement agreement; and include the terms of the easement in the legal adjudication of the condemnation.

5. Providing for compensation for all losses suffered by the property owner, including the market value of the property taken, damage to the remainder, cost to cure, and diminution of access;

6. Providing for payment by the condemnor to the property owner of all costs and expenses, including attorney’s fees, when the condemnor misuses the legal process or unnecessarily threatens the interests of private property owners;

7. Providing that the condemnor pay all costs and expenses, including attorney’s fees, to the property owner when the award by the special commissioners or the court is greater than the condemnor’s original offer;

8. Providing written notice of the condemned property owner’s option to reacquire the condemned property, or property conveyed in lieu of condemnation, and all associated property rights, including mineral and groundwater rights, for the price paid by the condemnor if the original project causing the condemnation does not progress or is not completed within a reasonable time;

9. Requiring advance written notice to private property owners of the intent to survey or access the property and secure such consent in writing before entering the property;

10. Providing the landowner with an indemnity, proof of insurance, or written assurance that any damages occasioned by the survey or other activities, including construction, on the property will be the responsibility of the condemnor;

11. Requiring the condemnor to take full responsibility for themselves and contractors, including reasonable measures to monitor all gates, cattle guards, and fences securing livestock and repair or replace any such gates, cattle guards, and/or fences that are damaged;

12. Prohibiting access beyond the proposed and final condemnation area for unauthorized purposes;

13. Requiring that the condemnation will specifically reserve to the condemnee all rights to groundwater and minerals unless the taking is specifically designated for the taking of groundwater pursuant to Texas law;

14. Ensuring that the condemnor limit the width of any temporary or permanent easement to the minimum essential for the proposed project, restore any surface area and vegetation, and take steps to prevent and/or eliminate the invasion of noxious plants;

15. Requiring the condemnor to pursue alignments along existing right of ways of other utilities and along property boundaries to minimize damages to the landowner.

16. Requiring pipeline companies to adhere to objective routing standards similar to those in place at the PUC for power lines and requiring pipeline companies to receive approval from the RRC for the proposed routing through a contested case hearing.

17. Requiring the condemnor to provide condemnee with an estimate of reasonable attorneys’ fees required to evaluate the offer and proposed taking along with the appraisal and make an additional offer to pay this amount in a final settlement.”

Quote of the Day — December 9, 2014

From a December 9, 2014,  article in the Bay Area “The Citizen” publication entitled “High Speed Houston to Dallas train on the horizon” a quote from Robert Eckels, President of Texas Central Railway:

“We can buy their homes and they can continue to live in them. We can pay them today and they can continue living there for five years – until we need to tear it down.”

EIS Meetings are over…NOW WHAT?

The Environmental Impact Scoping Meetings have been held, so now you may be wondering what’s next and what can you do now.  Glad you asked!  Here is a link to the National Environmental Act Process provided by TCR.  The Federal Railroad Administration (the decision maker) will now begin the fourth step of the process to determine if Texas Central Rail (the PROMOTER) can get the green light for the Owner and Operator (unknown) to begin construction.  The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is also involved in the process. Look HERE for the responsibilities of the FRA and TXDOT. The fourth step includes:

  • Final Screening of Alternatives
  • Engineering Analysis
  • Environmental Analysis
  • Agency Coordination
  • Identify Preferred Alternative
  • Document Preparation

Eventually, a draft EIS will be made available to the public for review.  When this happens I will let you know, so make sure you sign up for email updates.  In the mean time, we need to be proactive!  If you have not had the opportunity to submit your comments and questions to the FRA to be included in the EIS, please do so soon.  The deadline is January 9, 2015.  After this date, you can still make a submission for consideration, but it will not be included in the EIS.  Here are the ways you can submit your comments and questions:

Mail: Nancy Gates, PO Box 201088, Austin, TX 78720-1088

Email: DallasHoustonHSR@urs.com

Phone: 1-844-541-1875

Email: Michael.johnsen@dot.gov

Online: dallashoustonhsr.com

If you have already submitted a comment or question but you think of more, feel free to submit them.  They want to hear from you!  After you have submitted your comments, spread the word up and down the proposed route.  There are so many people who have not heard about this train! And finally, please contact your local and state elected officials.  These are the people that can make a difference!

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Final EIS Meeting TONIGHT

The final Environmental Impact Study meeting will be held tonight at the Grimes County Expo Center, 5220 F.M. 3455, Navasota, TX beginning at 4:30.  If you have not had the opportunity to attend a meeting, I would strongly encourage you to be there tonight!  If you have ANY question regarding this project, I implore you to submit your questions directly to the Federal Railroad Administration and Texas Department of Transportation by the Monday, January 9, 2015, deadline.  It is our understanding that ALL questions and comments submitted must be addressed in the EIS.  Here is how you can submit your comments:

Mail: Nancy Gates, PO Box 201088, Austin, TX 78720-1088

Email: DallasHoustonHSR@urs.com

Phone: 1-844-541-1875

Email: Michael.johnsen@dot.gov

Online: dallashoustonhsr.com

Be sure to let them know you oppose bisecting agricultural land, taking homes and displacing residents, farms and businesses, encroaching on wildlife habitat and devaluing private property while using  governmental authority of eminent domain for a for-profit foreign invested business.

After attending several of these EIS scoping meetings this week, it is clear through the public comments, that there is little support for this project (other than the promoter of this project- Texas Central Rail).