High-speed train developer withdraws lawsuits against Texas landowners

February 7, 2017

The private developer of a planned bullet train between Dallas and Houston has withdrawn more than a dozen lawsuits against Texas landowners that sought court orders allowing the company access to private property to survey land for the 240-mile project. 

Texas Central Partners officials said they are instead going to try and have an “open dialogue” with landowners about letting the company onto their land. 

“We’re stepping back and going back to conversations and taking some of the heat out of our process,” said Texas Central CEO Tim Keith. 

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In court filings, the company argued that state law allows it to enter private property to survey land that may used for a potential route because it is a railroad. A group called Texans Against High-Speed Rail have said the company shouldn’t be considered a railroad because it doesn’t currently operate any rail lines. 

In one Harris County lawsuit, attorneys for a landowner echoed that argument. A trial on the merits of those legal arguments was set for July, according to the Harris County District Clerk’s office.  

Keith said Tuesday that the company was confident it would have secured a ruling in its favor. Texas Central and landowners had already settled 21 other similar legal filings. The company said the decision to withdraw the remaining suits was largely based on the fact that it’s already reached access and land-purchase options with more than 3,000 landowners. 

Texas Central said Tuesday it has secured land-purchase options on about 30 percent of the parcels needed. The company said it has also executed land-purchase options on about 50 percent of the land needed in both Grimes and Waller counties, northwest of Houston. The project is especially controversial in Grimes County. 

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A land-purchase option essentially means that the company and a property owner have reached an agreement on how much the firm will pay for any land that may be needed for the route. The company pays an up-front fee that the owner can keep regardless of whether the firm eventually needs their land once the route is finalized. 

Disclosure: Texas Central Railway has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/02/07/high-speed-train-developer-withdraws-lawsuits-against-texas-landowners/.

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