Rural Texans Unhappy With HSR Plan

Nov 24th, 2014 | Posted by

The backers of the Texas Central Railway plan to build high speed rail from Dallas to Houston have often tried to claim they’re somehow doing things better than California’s high speed rail plan, particularly their pledge not to use public funding.

But they are discovering that it doesn’t matter who pays for it – rural landowners still get cranky when proposing to run a rail line through their area:

Yet the reception has been less rosy from rural communities that will be on or near a possible train route. Officials and residents have expressed concern about the noise from trains whizzing past their quiet towns dozens of times a day and about a track dividing farmland and reducing property values.

“I haven’t heard anything positive about it whatsoever,” said Byron Ryder, the county judge in Leon County, which is about halfway between Dallas and Houston. “I’ve talked to other judges and commissioners up and down the line, landowners up and down the line. No one wants it.”

Texas is discovering that NIMBYism doesn’t know the difference between red states and blue states – and that NIMBYs don’t care whether or not government is paying for something they hate.

What will be interesting is to see how Texas Central deals with this. Are they going to turn to the government and use their eminent domain power to force reluctant landowners to sell? Will they shell out extra money to engineer the route to avoid the noisiest landowners?

No matter what the answer, it goes to show that California HSR hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong at all in its efforts in the Central Valley regarding rural landowners. Some people you just can’t reach. It also suggests that Texas HSR should not be quite so smug when comparing their project to California’s.

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  1. synonymouse
    Nov 24th, 2014 at 21:50
    #1

    Most people consider all transport facilities essentially heavy industrial and blighting. It is pejorative to say someone lives down by the tracks. Rich people don’t want roads to go thru their property, let along railroads.

    Why should farmers get excited about an impingement on their ‘hood which won’t even serve them. Who would want an airport to be built next door or a flight path redirected right over your house?

    I guess you could say the Native Americans were the first nimbys. They rightly recognized the railroads would bring urbanization and the end to their traditional way of life.

    Farmers feed people – what the **** does the Tejon Mountain Village do of equal value? And their holiest of holies golf course.

    Nimbys don’t come any more militant than the ritchie rich Tejon Ranch Co. Time for the Cheerleaders to talk some trash about them and get off the double standard.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes that’s why in the Northeast and metro Chicago the real estate ads are filled with “walk to train”. Everybody wants to drive everywhere and they are doing it to warn people off that they so close to the train station that they can walk there.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Just don’t slip on the ice.

    BenW Reply:

    Cars, of course, are immune to snow-related problems.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    The Mouse family also never worries about those pile-ups in the fog on Hwy 99 when driving to Fresno.

    (It was amusing that the Mouses even go to Fresno given how important it is that HSR bypass the CV cities…)

    Jerry Reply:

    Will the cows stop producing milk along the route in Texas?

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Speaking of cows and food, what happened to the t-bone? That seemed like more of a California-style project, connecting most big towns in one system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The T-bone has a circuitous connection for the top city pair, Dallas-Houston. It makes more sense to have a reverse T-bone, with a straight Dallas-Houston leg and a San Antonio-Austin leg that hits the midpoint of the Dallas-Houston leg.

    BenW Reply:

    This one, OTOH, seems more like the I-5 alignment (though without the freeway itself)—staying the heck away from any place that would gum up the works by making you actually stop for passengers. Is that an unfair characterization?

    Eric Reply:

    Well, there may end up being a stop near College Station, which is vaguely comparable to the stop in Fresno.

    On the other hand, there won’t be a detour to Waco, which would be vaguely comparable to the detour to Palmdale.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Going through Waco would make sense if Abilene was as big as Las Vegas.

    Eric Reply:

    Nope, better for LA-LV trains to detour a few miles to Tejon than for LA-SF trains to detour many miles to Palmdale.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s not a few miles.

    Eric Reply:

    It’s much less than the Palmdale detour.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No it’s not.

    Joey Reply:

    LA-LV via Tejon is about 25 miles more. LA-SF via Palmdale is about 40 miles more.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No it’s not. Google Maps says it 69 miles between Palmdale and Los Angeles or 115 if I drag the route to the intersection of I-5 and Route 138. 115 minus 69 is 46.

    joe Reply:

    Oh god. Only on this blog does Tejon to Las Vegas have any traction.
    Palmdale is part of the system. HSR would not happen without Palmdale.

    But here’s a question:
    What if Mary Jane was bitten by that radioactive spider?

    synonymouse Reply:

    “HSR would not happen without Palmdale.”

    Kicking Palmdale to the curb would surely bring the end of days down upon us.

    Joey Reply:

    adirondacker: I’m using conceptual HSR alignments rather than roads. And I’m assuming that LA-LV via Tejon wouldn’t backtrack into Palmdale.

    Zorro Reply:

    HSR via Tejon will not happen… To think otherwise, is a delusional fantasy…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The roads are where they are for a reason.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “The roads are where they are for a reason.”

    Yep. I-5 is Tejon, not Mojave.

    Amtrak bus from Bako to LA needs to be immediately rerouted thru Palmdale.

    Eric Reply:

    “Google Maps says it 69 miles between Palmdale and Los Angeles or 115 if I drag the route to the intersection of I-5 and Route 138. 115 minus 69 is 46.”

    The 25 mile figure is if you take Tejon to CA-138 and then head due east to around Barstow. Google Maps cannot calculate that route since there are no roads along that route. But it’s super flat and ready for HSR.

    wdobner Reply:

    … And kinda occupied by the USAF. Edwards AFB is definitely not “super flat”, and, most notably, not moving. But I suppose they’re just another special interest group to be excoriated on the Internet until they see the light and get clear of the train, like Tejon Mountain Ranch, right?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Once again, http://andersonmichael.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/palmdale-spur/ is a very nice (and completely convincing, for those with any sort of reasoning ability) documented sketch of exactly how it could work, and works nicely.

    Joey Reply:

    wdobner: Edwards AFB is big, but the Mojave desert is much bigger. There’s plenty of room to go around it.

    joe Reply:

    @Richard
    This is funny

    The main pushback from blog commenters(admittedly a non-representative population) appears to be that isolating the Antelope Valley from high-speed service is not worth billions of dollars in capital cost savings and 12 minutes of reduced running time.

    Those of us with reasoning ability recognize that bloggers are not pushing back. The push back comes from Senator Reid, LA County, The Legislature, The President pro tempore of the California State Senate and CA Governor.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Las Vegas doesn’t count. It’s not Los Angeles or San Jose.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Love to hear how those farmers get their corn, chickens and citrus to market without train tracks or highways.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Free roads are the 11th Commandment.

    JB in PA Reply:

    Omnes viae ad Roma.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    To James F, all you need to know
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farm-to-market_road

  2. Shane Phillips
    Nov 24th, 2014 at 22:56
    #2

    If a private organization managed to build HSR without the use of eminent domain it’d be the greatest achievement in the history of business. It’s as close to literally impossible as I can think of, unless there’s already a right of way from and old train line or something.

    Derek Reply:

    Every landowner has a price, so it’s possible in theory. In reality, eminent domain is cheaper.

    TomA Reply:

    No – in reality some people have no price. They simply won’t sell. Kind of the opposite of some people like to watch the world burn.

    This is where rational market theories break down – more often than economists would like to admit, people are not rational, at least within the scope of the economics of a situation.

    Observer Reply:

    Note that many landowners along the XL Keystone pipeline route are against that project; eminent domain is being used against them.

  3. Eric
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 02:22
    #3

    As I understand it, most of the tracks will be within existing rail or utility ROW. So the amount of eminent domain required would be rather small.

    Also, the legal and political environment TX will probably make NIMBY protests easier to overcome than in CA.

  4. les
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 05:23
    #4

    who knows it could be a net positive, maybe cows will produce more milk after each train wizzes by. Does Tejon have teets?

    les Reply:

    err: teats

  5. StevieB
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 08:39
    #5

    The organized opposition group Sam Houston Tea Party from rural Southeast Texas showed up during a public meeting in Huntsville. The conflict seems to pit city folk against country folk. Sam Houston Tea Party representative Linda Thompson said “We’re putting in a rail line that’s going to serve the city dwellers,” and “It doesn’t appear that, other than during the construction phase, there will be any jobs for the rural areas going forward.”

    Thompson, who lives in Walker County, said she and many residents of nearby Grimes County were offended at the assertion by project supporters during the public meeting that their area was chosen for a high-speed rail route because it is “flat and undeveloped.”

    “These communities … produce the goods, both food and cloth, and everything else that services the world,” she said. “To make light of our flat land by saying it’s undeveloped is criminal.

    Both alternatives call for the rail line to extend southeast from downtown Dallas on a path roughly parallel to Interstate 45, about midway between Waxahachie and Ennis. The trains would then use a combination of rail and utility right-of-way, winding along rural areas west of Corsicana, Teague and Huntsville then entering the Houston metro area near either Cypress or Tomball.

    Map of Alternatives Selected for Detailed Evaluation

    Wells Reply:

    The earlier/original Burlington RR ran from Galvaston, Houston, Dallas/Ft Worth, Wichita Falls, Amarillo, Pueblo, Denver, Cheyenne, Casper, Billings. That route to Denver at least, has got to be high on the to do list if we Marikuns hope to become more than a 3rd world wage-slave nation some day.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Of course more and more of the city dwellers in TX are transplants, many from California.

  6. datacruncher
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 08:44
    #6

    The original article discussed in Robert’s link is here
    http://www.texastribune.org/2014/11/21/reaction-bullet-train-plan-less-rosy-rural-texas/
    Be sure to click the comments button, most of them read like the comments in California newspapers about the project here.

    A quote from the original article that should interest Syno, he just needs to come up with a catchy nickname to use for the Texas project since it is elevated.

    More than 100 miles of the 240-mile corridor would be built on elevated tracks to reduce the impact on communities, said Travis Kelly, Texas Central Railway’s vice president for government relations.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    TejanoCon

  7. datacruncher
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 08:44
    #7

    It is not just rural residents in Texas who “get cranky” about the HSR project there. This article appeared a week ago about concerns from Houston’s First Ward residents.
    http://www.chron.com/neighborhood/heights/news/article/First-Ward-frets-about-proposed-high-speed-rail-5901900.php

    And this long letter to the editor from a “cranky” resident in Houston’s Oak Forest neighborhood.
    http://www.chron.com/opinion/letters/article/Saturday-letters-Flagging-a-rail-route-5910199.php

  8. joe
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 08:50
    #8

    Oh Noes. Texas Central Railway plans to build an iconic station in Dallas. HSR technicals must stop another wasteful station design. Must make utilitarian station.s Must stop iconic buildings. PBQD is behind this somehow – right?

    http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/blog/2014/11/high-speed-rail-station-will-be-iconic-part-of.html
    High-speed rail station will be ‘iconic’ part of Dallas skyline, CEO says
    Texas Central Railway will make a big statement with its downtown Dallas station, said Richard Lawless, CEO of the private company behind the project.

    “We’re building a $10 billion plus system here,” Lawless said. “Our iconic symbol of that, is going to be, yes a terminal in Houston, but on the Dallas skyline, we want to have an iconic structure. We’re budgeting accordingly to have an iconic structure. We have the ability to do that because we’re starting from scratch.”

    Eric Reply:

    “Iconic” stations are fine as long as they’re not built with MY TAX MONEY, like the ones in CA are/would be.

    BenW Reply:

    I would amend that to “iconic buildings are OK if they are also functional”—a question that there’s really no information about, with respect to Texas Central’s somewhat optimistic plans.

    Joey Reply:

    Right – the problem with a lot of the “iconic” stations we’re seeing today isn’t that attention is paid to aesthetics – it’s that the building’s design just doesn’t serve its stated purpose very well making it a primarily aesthetic and secondarily functional endeavor.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joey, if only the functionality were secondary, or at least measurable, instead of these monstrosities simply being dysfunctional.

    Joey Reply:

    I was trying to be generous, but yeah, in a lot of these cases the “iconic” elements end up impeding pedestrian flow.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I doubt the pursuit of iconic elements will impede the function of the station- if current utilitarian shinkansen station designs are to be followed, it will be an elevated station (likely a maximum of two platforms with four tracks for the terminal points in Dallas and Houston) with ticketing, shops, and other services on the ground floor beneath the platforms. Iconic doodads can be affixed to station facades, and various roof designs can be selected which do not impede the basic function of the station (though glass must be carefully used to prevent greenhouse effects in the Texas sun). A selection of designs on the Kyushu Shinkansen route:
    http://homepage3.nifty.com/jam/railroad.html

    Joey Reply:

    The private Texas project with Japanese expertise might be different, but I was talking more generally about the “iconic” designs we’ve seen in the USA in recent times.

    Eric Reply:

    Also, I would not be surprised if this “iconic” station ended up costing around $100 million. Negligible compared to the overall cost, comparable to the 1% that is sometimes set aside in transit projects for station artwork, which I think is quite justifiable.

    In contrast, Diridon, Transbay, and the WTC stegosaurus all cost in the billions, and the cosmetic elements cost at least 50% of the functional elements.

    Travis D Reply:

    How do you know how much Diridon will cost? Did I miss a cost estimate?

    Eric Reply:

    I haven’t seen one, but with 14 elevated tracks and Bay Area cost inflation, I can’t imagine less than a billion.

    Joey Reply:

    Only four of the tracks would be elevated, but they would have to be constructed above the existing station while it still operates. It’s also coupled with a few miles of viaduct and an “iconic” bridge over a freeway interchange (which also has to remain in operation during construction.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Did I miss a cost estimate?

    Think of the most outrageous number you can imagine, the number at which anybody else on earth would say “screw it, no way we’re paying so much for so little, let’s pay for hospitals/schools/coke-and-hookers instead, that’s much better value!”

    Now double it.

    That will be the “budget” “estimate” of this “public” works project as sold to the public.

    However, due to “unexpected circumstances” the final cost of the project as delivered, after several rounds of “value engineering” and removing all of the crap that was used in the public sales pitch (stuff like “will accommodate trains” and “will accommodate passengers”, that sort of extraneous crap) will exceed the “cost estimate” by another factor of two to five.

    USA USA USA!

    joe Reply:

    One would think that all these horrible, corrupt infrastructure projects would be a repellent and not an attractant.

    Possibly you will complain about the turkey tonight. “How’s the bird? Think of the most dry and salty bird you can imagine and double it. ..”

    synonymouse Reply:

    How about iconic, ergo monumental, gratuitous, detours?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    $10 billion for 400 km is $25 million per km, which is a perfectly reasonable cost.

    EJ Reply:

    Thus far they are still claiming the system will be built with private funds. If they’re not spending any federal money, why should I care what they build?

  9. Purple City
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 08:57
    #9

    Texas law gives private railroad companies the right of eminent domain, as it has since the 1800s.

    This is also why oil and gas pipelines are regulated by the railroad commission.

  10. Joey
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 11:59
    #10

    Big surprise – NIMBYs exist everywhere. As usual it’s just a vocal few who probably won’t have any long-term affect on the project. If they try really hard then maybe they can scrape together a lawsuit. Can that lawsuit hold up in court? Probably not.

  11. Reedman
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 14:02
    #11

    Does Texas have an equivalent to CEQA?

  12. Andrew
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 15:01
    #12

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  13. Jerry
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 18:05
    #13

    Andrew:
    The link is here:
    http://mtc.ca.gov/

  14. Alon Levy
    Nov 25th, 2014 at 20:27
    #14

    Railroads have eminent domain power in the US, no?

    EJ Reply:

    Common carrier railroads do. I think this qualifies as a common carrier, although not 100% certain since it doesn’t carry freight.

    Regardless, eminent domain can be a long process so they avoid it whenever possible.

    aw Reply:

    One of the articles I read said that the TCR will have eminent domain power.

    joe Reply:

    TCR will have eminent domain power.

    TransCanada Corporation,a non USA company, has eminent domain power and is exercising that power to build the Keystone pipeline across Texas. It seems to be pretty streamlined in Texas. The pipeline has;t been approved and they’re seizing land.

    joe Reply:

    And it;s easy to do.

    http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/eminent-domain/
    The Keystone XL pipeline has brought the issues of eminent domain and landowner rights in Texas into the spotlight. Some landowners have refused to sign agreements with the company, and in response the company behind the pipeline has filed claims of eminent domain. Over a hundred in Texas.
    ….
    To get eminent domain to route a pipeline across private land in Texas, all a company has to do is check a box on a two-page form to the Railroad Commission of Texas (which regulates drilling and pipelines in the state).

    By checking that box, the pipeline company says it is a “common carrier,” i.e. a pipeline that will be available at market rates for other companies to use, and therefore in the public interest.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They’re Japanese; they’re used to worse.

    EJ Reply:

    Oh I’m sure they’ll use it if they have to, it’s just that buying out landowners, even if you have to pay somewhat above market value, is usually a much easier process, and once you account for the time and lawyers’ fees, usually ends up being cheaper than eminent domain. No doubt if there are holdouts they’ll use eminent domain.

    orulz Reply:

    Once the actual condemnation of property comes up, it’s actually fairly quick. Condemnation is actually extremely common and there is a well-worn path through the legal system for dealing with these cases. The only reason that it appears to take so long, I think, is that they usually spend a great deal of time negotiating before resorting to condemnation.

    The question of whether the compensation was correct does sometimes come up in terms of a reverse condemnation lawsuit, but that is generally after the fact and does not usually hold up a project from moving forward.

  15. joe
    Nov 26th, 2014 at 09:44
    #15

    This news must make the LA Times sad.

    http://www.lamayor.org/mayor_garcetti_announces_breakthrough_agreement_to_create_light_rail_manufacturing_jobs_in_l_a_county
    LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Mayor and L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Chair Eric Garcetti today announced that an agreement has been reached between Kinkisharyo International, LLC and labor and community groups to resolve an impasse that would have seen the company locate manufacturing operations for its next order of Metro light rail cars outside of L.A. County. Mayor Garcetti intervened to continue stalled talks among the parties, resulting in the agreement.
    As a result of the agreement, Kinkisharyo will expand the current light rail car assembly and testing operations at its existing site in Palmdale to include manufacturing tasks, which will create up to a total of 250 jobs. The 175 cars being worked on at the facility will be put into service on the Crenshaw, Exposition and extended Gold lines. The agreement includes a neutrality agreement, as well as a commitment to explore additional skills training and assistance for disadvantaged L.A. County workers.

  16. Donk
    Nov 26th, 2014 at 12:14
    #16

    Anaheim ARTIC pics. I actually like it. Opens in two weeks.

    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/artic-643104-station-city.html

    Joey Reply:

    It’s a nice looking building which was built on the wrong side of the freeway.

    EJ Reply:

    Someone on here, I think it was adirondacker, called it “the rain cover for New York’s stegosaurus” and now I can’t unsee that.

  17. joe
    Nov 26th, 2014 at 18:43
    #17

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Some farmers complain HSR is taking valuable farmland so HSR will acquire farmland to preserve it from development and protect farming.

    http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/local/x1147594253/State-wants-to-preserve-5-000-acres-of-farmland-to-replace-acreage-lost-to-high-speed-rail

    Central Valley farmland owners will soon be eligible for $20 million from the California High-Speed Rail Authority in exchange for a commitment not to develop their agricultural property.
    The solicitation announced Tuesday has been planned since at least 2012. It addresses a common complaint by farmers that the bullet train will take up too much prime agricultural land.
    Kern County Farm Bureau’s Executive Director Beatris Sanders said by email while she appreciates the department’s recognition of agriculture’s importance, the bureau has higher priorities, such as the need for a functioning and sustainable water system.

    What?! Higher priorities than protecting farmland!?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Without water they can’t grow a healthy crop of McMansions someday.

    joe Reply:

    Certainly residential water demand is less than agriculture. Scientific analysis (I’m sceptical it’s complete) calculated the impact of a log term severe drought on CA’s economy is less than 4% of GDP. Ag amounts to 4% of CA’s economy.

    HSR’s called the opposition’s bluff. CA is going to offer to lock up land as farmland. Meanwhile Kern and King sue to protect farmland and Kern Co says it is too busy working other issues to protect farmland.
    Tell it to the judge.

    Eric Reply:

    Agriculture can use gray water.

    joe Reply:

    oh my


    Kern County files high-speed rail suit

    http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/local/x1295480581/Kern-County-files-high-speed-rail-suit

    The Kern County Board of Supervisors had authorized the filing of the suit Tuesday on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Leticia Perez dissenting. The city of Bakersfield is expected to file a similar suit.

    Kings County, Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability and the Kings County Farm Bureau sued over the same document Thursday, calling the report “unquestionably inadequate.”

    They said it fails to address the effect of the project on thousands of acres of farmland, wildlife habitat, communities, businesses and industrial facilities, as well as the potential harm to existing roads, oil and water wells, and water delivery and drainage facilities.

    Maybe Kern Co will drop the lawsuit because they have more important things than preserving farmland and squandering taxpayer money on lawsuits against the state.

    Maybe they’ll accept the HSR offer to protect farmland from the horrors of development and profiteering

    Zorro Reply:

    I doubt Kern Co will accept the offer on protecting farmland, Kern Co will probably ignore the offer out of hand…

    joe Reply:

    Here’s what CA will do. Send the Kern Co. segment out to bid.

    State high-speed rail agency seeks builders for Kern County route segment

    The California High-Speed Rail Authority on Friday issued a request for qualifications to contractors that might be interested in building Construction Package 4, a 30-mile stretch of the bullet-train route through Kern County northwest of Bakersfield.

    http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/11/21/4247814_state-high-speed-rail-agency-seeks.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

    Wells Reply:

    Joe’s, “Maybe Kern County will drop the lawsuit because more important concerns, specifically, preserving farmland from the horrors of development or squandering taxpayer money on lawsuits. Maybe they’ll accept the HSR offer to ‘protect’ farmland from development profiteering.”

    It was near enough to the important issues – development, concrete/fencing barriers, construction -impacts as a concern to address more fully. I thought it should be put into concise text. If say, a slower route option also reduces impact, would that option honestly considered win support? Or would it not qualify for stupid 200mph?

    I don’t want to raise the figure to 220mph, but as stated in Prop 1A only as ‘exceeding’ 200mph.
    To do 2:40 it will need to do 220 on some stretches. It can’t.
    Now you guys can just ignore these points as usual, blah blah blah.
    What (or whom) does joe refer to in using the word protect? Good question, joe.

    EJ Reply:

    Do you have anything interesting to contribute or are you just here to lecture us about the proper forms of internet debate?

    Eric Reply:

    “Central Valley farmland owners will soon be eligible for $20 million from the California High-Speed Rail Authority in exchange for a commitment not to develop their agricultural property.”

    Can anyone say “blackmail”?

    Alan Reply:

    No. It isn’t blackmail, any more than ordinary farm subsidies are blackmail. In both scenarios, the land owners are being paid to use (or not use) their property for a public purpose. One can debate the wisdom of either scenario, but that doesn’t make it blackmail.

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