Need For Speed: Bullet Train Can Take Your Land, Says TX Supreme Court
The Texas Supreme Court says it's not about whether the train is good for the state. It's all about the law.
In siding with Texas Central, the court's majority said their decision focuses on the issue of eminent domain, not about the merits of the train.
Eminent Domain in Texas
KXAN reports last month's ruling by the Supreme Court of Texas allows private groups behind the proposed bullet train between Houston and Dallas to use eminent domain to take land for the electric railway project.
Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property for public use. The Fifth Amendment states that the government may only exercise this power if they provide 'just compensation' to property owners.
The court's ruling cites Chapter 131 of the Texas Transportation Code, saying it grants eminent domain authority for a electric railway company to provide transportation of passengers, freight, or both between Texas cities.
What is the Texas Bullet Train?
Texas Central claims the $30 billion train would travel up to 200 miles per hour, making it possible for passengers to commute between Dallas and Houston in about 90 minutes, according to WFAA. The company also argues the project will benefit the state by reducing traffic on Texas highways, create thousands of jobs, and generate billions of dollars for the economy.
Many land owners with property that sits in the proposed train path disagree with the recent ruling, and have been fighting the project for years. James Miles of Leon County sued Texas Central in 2019, challenging the company's authority to use eminent domain to take his land. How the train will affect the environment in Texas is also an issue.
What if Property Owners Refuse Eminent Domain?
The recent ruling means Texas Central can take property for the project and pay landowners for it, even if landowners object. It's not clear how much they will be paid, but KXAN is reporting that the project is expected to take about five years to finish.