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Bullet train builders say they'll use eminent domain if necessary

The company behind a multibillion-dollar high-speed railway is touting the project as a revolutionary step in the state’s transportation network. What’s unclear, however, is how many property owners might lose some of their land to make this corporation’s vision a reality.

Texas Central is forging ahead with its proposal – a newly built railway that would get passengers from Houston to Dallas in about 90 minutes – even as legal questions linger. Texans along the proposed 240-mile route may find it particularly worrisome to read some recent comments from the company about the use of eminent domain.

Securing the needed land

According to a report from The Leader, the project reached a significant milestone in early September when the Federal Railroad Administration agreed to create a custom set of rules for the new train’s operation. Texas Central said if all goes according to plan, construction could start in 2020.

At this point, however, the company only has about 30% of the land it needs to build the railway. That means it will need to secure the remaining 70% in the months ahead – potentially by taking it from private property owners via eminent domain.

A spokesperson for Texas Central said the company’s goal is to agree to terms with every private landowner along the route. “But ultimately, if [the use of eminent domain] is necessary and we’re forced to do that, we will have to go down that path,” the spokesperson continued.

Legal questions remain

It’s not clear whether Texas Central even has the authority to use eminent domain for its high-speed train project. While railways are considered as for the public good, a judge earlier in 2019 ruled Texas Central wasn’t actually a rail company because it had not laid any tracks – and therefore cannot use eminent domain.

The company appealed that ruling, and the case is still working its way through the courts.

Texas landowners along the proposed route may want to begin preparing now for any outcome. If you or someone you know is worried about their property being taken as part of the high-speed rail project, it may be time to speak with an eminent domain attorney. A lawyer can serve as your advocate and, in the worst-case scenario, help ensure you get fair compensation.

A high-speed train shouldn’t run over any individual’s rights on the way to its destination.

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