Group to emphasize high-speed rail problems during March 17 public meeting

Photo courtesy Texans Against High-Speed Rail.
Texans Against High-Speed Rail is holding a public meeting at Ennis High School on March 17 at 6 p.m.

ELLIS COUNTY — Texans Against High-Speed Rail is hosting a public meeting in Ellis County on Tuesday, March 17 at 6 p.m. to provide information to residents about the proposed Dallas Houston High-Speed Rail project. The meeting will be held at Ennis High School located at 2301 Ensign Rd, Ennis, TX 75119.

Texans Against High-Speed Rail Inc. is a 501c(4) (application pending) organization dedicated to the opposition of high-speed rail in the State of Texas. Their 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 purpose of the high-speed rail proposal is to transport people from Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes. However, there are no stops in Ellis County and many local residents and elected officials believe there are no benefits to Ellis County.

Texans Against High-Speed Rail Inc. President Kyle Workman states there are numerous problems with the project and hopes that residents will work together to protect private property.

"There are many issues with this proposed (high-speed rail) project, but our chief concerns with the high-speed rail proposal are the use of eminent domain by a private company that will be the sole financial benefactor of the project, as well as the inevitable tax subsidies that will result when the project proves to be financially nonviable," Workman said.

Texas Central High-Speed Railway, a private, for-profit company, is seeking eminent domain powers for the 240-mile project that runs through Ellis County.

"Ellis County residents should be concerned about their private property rights, loss of property value, permanent city/county road closures and how the county will recoup lost tax revenue as a result of decreased property taxes," Workman said.

"Also, any future infrastructure projects crossing a high-speed railway would require a larger budget to accommodate a bridge or tunnel instead of much less expensive grade level road or highway."

Sources say no residents spoke in favor of the high-speed rail during a Dec. 1, 2014 public meeting at the Waxahachie Civic Center hosted by the Federal Railroad Administration. Approximately 200 residents were in attendance.

"To me, there is no economic benefit for Ellis County," Waxahachie city councilman David Hill said.

Ellis County Commissioner Precinct 1 Dennis Robinson introduced a resolution to the Ellis County Commissioners' Court on Dec. 18, 2014 to oppose the high-speed rail project.

"I did a little research and all the information that I gather, it all has a negative impact on the county. I haven't been able to find information or facts that show any benefit to our county or to our citizens with this type of project," Robinson said.

"I think it is important that we as a body, as a court, we approve this resolution and we let our state and federal representatives know also that this is a project that we do not believe is beneficial to us here in Ellis County."

The resolution passed unanimously.

State Representative John Wray, R-Waxahachie, has also come out publicly opposing the high-speed rail.

"I joined several of my legislative colleagues, as well as with the Ellis County Commissioner's Court, in opposing the Texas Central High Speed Railway Project," Wray said.

He wrote a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration stating his opposition and detailing the negative impacts the rail will have on Ellis County.

"The long-term costs potentially far outweigh any temporary benefit," Wray wrote. "Farm and ranchland, often held by families for generations, will be divided, which creates a loss in access and in revenue for those who rely on farming and ranching to make a living."

Texas Central High-Speed Railway is proposing to divide Ellis County with a high-speed rail connecting Dallas to Houston.Photo courtesy Texas Central High-Speed Railway.

Texas Central High-Speed Railway is proposing to divide Ellis County with a high-speed rail connecting Dallas to Houston.

With many politicians from various counties between Dallas and Houston coming out against the project, Texas Central High-Speed Railway hired former Secretary of State of Texas, Dallas Mayor and United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk as senior adviser to and ambassador for the company according to a Nov. 24, 2014 letter the company released.

"Recognizing that the benefits are vast, I want to make this dream of high-speed rail in Texas and the United States a reality. I will be devoting my time and attention to helping that happen in every way I can," Kirk wrote.

Kirk served as the Secretary of State of Texas from 1994 to 1995, served as Mayor of Dallas from 1995 to 2002, was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate as the U.S. Trade Representative from 2009 to 2013.

Kirk also ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2002 but was defeated by Republican John Cornyn. Kirk has also worked for a law firm in Houston and was a high-paid lobbyist for multiple companies.

Opposition to the high-speed rail continues to build and one state representative is working to put the decision in the hands of local jurisdictions rather than at the federal and state level.

State Representative Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, filed a bill on Feb. 25 that would require approval by elected officials in every city and county along the route before the rail could run through each jurisdiction. Metcalf's bill is House Bill 1889. Wray and Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, are co-sponsors.

Texans Against High Speed Rail is working to unite elected officials and residents against the high-speed rail proposal.

"Texans Against High-Speed Rail is working with all counties along the proposed routes to create a unified voice of opposition, and making strides in safeguarding our state from high-speed rail through coordinated grassroots efforts and legislative affairs," Workman said.

The high-speed rail would run through Dallas, Ellis, Navarro, Freestone, Leon, Madison, Grimes and Harris counties with Limestone, Montgomery and Waller counties included depending on the final route.

"At meetings recently in Waller County and Leon County, residents were justifiably angry that this proposal is moving forward with backing of TxDOT, but they were also encouraged that they now have a group to be a part of that amplifies their voice, has a coordinated plan to oppose this project and is working with their elected officials on how to best protect our great state," Workman said.

Click here to visit the website for Texans Against High-Speed Rail.

Click here to view a WFAA News 8 story regarding the potential impact to landowners in
Ellis County.

Click here to download a map of the proposed route (39.6 MB).

Click here to visit the Texas Central High-Speed Railway website.