Starting in 2021, Texas Central hopes to have its high-speed rail up and running, with trains traversing East Texas 62 times a day. The company says its tracks will be no wider than 100 feet at any point, requiring a total of 3,000 acres along its 240-mile route between Dallas and Houston.An intrepid train rider can get from Dallas to Houston, or return, with a layover in San Antonio. The train service is about as different from that offered in rural areas of Germany and France as one can get without returning to steam days. But there are locals apparently afraid of iron horse showering sparks and spooking horses.
“The vast majority of the folks between Dallas and Houston are against it,” said Kyle Workman, president of the recently formed Texans Against High-Speed Rail. “They don’t want their land to be taken. They don’t want a train going through their quiet country landscape.”It's a gripe that goes back to the Stephenson brothers or I. K. Brunel tussling with the squires in the shires. Those railway pioneers might have fought the canal lobbies; today it might be the road-builders and Southwest Airlines.
The company said in a statement that it plans to "design large, frequent and conveniently located underpasses or overpasses to allow for the free movement of farm equipment, livestock, wildlife and vehicle traffic." The electric-powered trains will be quieter than an 18-wheeler, the company says.It's a different kind of landed gentry, but the objections haven't changed in 200 years. Let the rent-seeking begin.
Workman is helping lead a coalition of high-speed rail critics backing several bills this session that could kill, or at least hobble, Texas Central’s ambitious project. Their partners include the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and county officials in all nine rural counties along the train's proposed routes.