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Texas Central fights legislators' efforts to kill high-speed rail project

Texas Central Partners LLC is fighting state lawmakers' plans to kill its privately funded project to build a Dallas-to-Houston bullet-train passenger service. Earlier this week, almost 9,000 citizen letters in support of the project were delivered to members of the state's House and Senate, Texas Central officials said in a March 7 statement. Residents in every state senate district have written letters of support for the project, company officials added. Late last month, a group of Texas lawmakers filed 18 bills aimed at curtailing Texas Central's plan to build the high-speed rail line. The proposed legislation addresses "eminent domain abuse" and other citizen concerns, according to a press release issued by Texas Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie), one lawmaker sponsoring the bills. The proposed laws also would ensure that Texas "isn't later forced to bail out the private project with taxpayer dollars," Wray's release stated. "At a minimum, the people of Texas deserve reasonable reassurances that their private property rights will be respected and that they will not be left holding the bag if this ill-conceived project fails," said Texas Rep. Leighton Schubert (R-Caldwell). The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) has called on Texas legislators to reject the bills, which the association described as "job-killing regulations." "I'm afraid this is another ideological attack by people offended at the idea of an alternative to highways — any alternative — which is worrying for the hardworking Texans who are regularly stuck in traffic on the heavily congested Interstate 45 corridor," said NARP President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Mathews in a statement. The bills appear to be in response to a report by the Reason Foundation that calls Texas Central's business model into question, NARP officials said. That report relies on an outdated data set collected by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), association officials added. In addition, TxDOT has noted that the data is outdated and can't be used for comparison purposes, according to NARP. Despite the opposition, Texas Central is posting progress on design work, engineering and environmental reviews. Last month, the company announced that it has reached land option agreements on 30 percent of the parcels of land needed for the high-speed rail project.

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