Houston-to-DFW Rail Project

Very good article from The Real Estate Center

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (Real Estate Center) – Texas Central’s planned, controversial high-speed railroad between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth is one of about 50 infrastructure projects that have garnered support from the Trump administration. However, for the project to move forward, Real Estate Center Research Attorney Rusty Adams says the state, landowners, and Texas Central have to sort out issues regarding the use of privately owned land.

“The Big Legal Question in all of this is whether Texas Central has the right to take the property needed to build the railroad,” Adams writes in his latest article, “Courts, Trains, and Eminent Domain.” “The law calls this eminent domain.”

Eminent domain is the power of the government to take property for public use without the owner’s consent. In some cases, the government can grant that authority to private persons or corporations for projects that benefit the general public. The process of actually taking the property is called condemnation.

“This is how we get roads, sidewalks, water supply systems, pipelines, and electrical transmission systems,” Adams says. “But the landowner must be adequately paid for the property.”

Texas Central might claim to have eminent domain authority under two statutes of the Texas Transportation Code.

One provides that a “railroad company” may acquire property by condemnation if the property is required for certain purposes listed in the statute, such as right-of-way, a roadbed, or the construction and operation of tracks.

Texas Central claims to be performing some of the purposes listed in the statute, but landowners disagree.

“The landowners say that a company with no right-of-way, no tracks, and no trains—and not enough money to buy them—cannot possibly be operating a railroad,” Adams says. “If a person can’t buy a ticket and ride a train, they contend, it’s not a railroad, and it certainly isn’t ‘operating.’”

The other statute defines “interurban electric railway company” as a corporation chartered under Texas law to conduct and operate an electric railway between two municipalities in Texas. That section provides that such a company may exercise eminent domain powers the same as a railroad company, and may condemn to acquire right-of-way on which to construct and operate rail lines, as well as sites for depots and power plants.

To learn more, read Adams’ latest research article, “Courts, Trains, and Eminent Domain,” now online at Courts, Trains, and Eminent Domain

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