With the release of the Federal Railroad Administration’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Texas Central Partner’s high speed rail project, residents and agencies are pouring over the extensive document before scheduled public meetings are held during the 60-day comment period.
“The process is specifically designed for public involvement,” said Texas Central on their website description of the DEIS. “The 60-day public comment period that began with the Dec. 22 notice in the Federal Register provides an important opportunity for the public to review and provide input to the Federal Railroad Administration on the Texas Bullet Train’s route.”
Opponents of the project agree that the limited 60-day window is a big concern. The Navasota Public Library has received a copy of the statement and explained that the document is contained in “numerous and heavy” large binders, enough to fill “two or three large file boxes.”
“The time frame to review and submit concerns is ridiculous, luckily we have a team of people going through it, although we have by no means been able to digest the document fully,” said Ben Leman, former Grimes County Judge and current chairman of Texans Against High Speed Rail. “The public comment period and review time frame is going to be a complete joke — county judges, commissioners, mayors and other elected officials need time to go through it and they will only be able to skim it and not know the exact details.”
According to Texas Central the DEIS is the “result of an extensive public process required for major infrastructure projects” and “the independent, environmental analysis stems from work over the last four years by hundreds of experts” and are hailing the document as “a major milestone” with “route, station locations identified.”
Concerns over legality of DEIS
U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady, prior to the release of the DEIS, submitted a letter to Elaine Chao, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, that constituents had voiced “concerns with the methods used to retrieve survey data of their land in order to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.” According to his letter, Brady brought the situation to Chao’s attention because “these constituents believe some of the survey information collected from their land was obtained without their consent.”
“With this news brought to their attention, it will be a difficult process of determining what information obtained in the DEIS is based on legally obtained information and what is not,” said Kyle Workman, president of TAHSR. “WE hope there will be a thorough investigation into this matter. Providing illegally obtained information to the federal government to formulate a DEIS is a serious issue.”
No response to Brady’s letter has been submitted by the Department of Transportation, but Texas Central stated that “the report reflects input from thousands of comments by the public, including landowners, community groups, elected officials and others” and that “an independent consultation managed by the FRA solicited, compiled and reviewed the public responses and technical reviews.”
Public comment meetings
As the legality concerns voiced by landowners and Brady are discussed in Washington D.C., the project’s public comment period will include ten meetings in the counties set to be impacted by the proposed project. According to the company’s website, “Federal Railroad Administration and TCR staff will be available to answer questions.” The following meetings have been scheduled by the Federal Railroad Administration:
•Dallas County – 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at Wilmer-Hutchins High School at 5520 Langdon Road, Dallas, TX 75241;
•Navarro County – 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at Corsicana Middle School at 4101 FM 744, Corsicana, TX 75110;
•Ellis County — 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, at Ennis High School at 2301 Ensign Rd., Ennis, TX 75119;
•Leon County – 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, at Leon High School at 12168 US 79, Jewett, TX 75846;
•Limestone County – 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, at Fairfield High School at 630 Post Rd., Fairfield, TX 75840;
•Madison County – 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, at Madisonville High School at 811A S. May St., Madisonville, TX 77864;
•Harris County – 6 to 10 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, at Woodard Elementary School at 17501 Cypress North Houston Rd., Cypress, TX 77433;
•Grimes County – 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Navasota High School at 1 Rattler Dr., Navasota, TX 77868; and
•Waller County – 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Waller High School at 20950 Fields Store Rd. Waller, TX 77484.
To read the entirety of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed 240-mile proposed high speed rail project from Houston to Dallas, go to www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P1078. For more information on the proposed project, go to www.texascentral.com. For more information on Texans Against High Speed Rail, go to www.texansagainsthsr.com.