High Speed Rail—Wasting Time.

It was beginning to look more and more as though this country’s first true high-speed train was going to happen in Texas.  It was a classic case of having a need and knowing how best to fill it. The people behind Texas Central Railway were sure that they had the answer to a problem that had been looking for a solution for many years.

It’s about 250 miles from Houston to downtown Dallas/Fort Worth. Even if there’s not a lot of traffic, it’s still a tough four-hour drive . . . and that’s under the best of conditions.

It was probably inevitable, therefore, that someone would get the idea that there ought to be a train to carry people between those two bustling cities. Not just any train, but a high-speed train that would reduce travel time to less than 90 minutes.

That’s how Texas Central Railway got started. It was not only an idea that made a great deal of sense, it was an idea that would most likely make a great deal of money.

And so the announcement was made, a corporation was formed, a website was created, employees were recruited and hired, and the proposed route was laid out between the two Texas cities. 

The new company actually began acquiring land between Houston and Dallas, full of confidence because the Law of Eminent Domain in Texas stated quite clearly that private land could be acquired, whether or not owner of the land objected, as long as it was to be used for a public purpose. And, lest there be any doubt as to the intent of the law, one of the approved uses for land acquired in this manner was for railroad facilities.

Then, suddenly, a Texas court ruled that the acquisition of land by Texas Central Railway must stop because of a legal objection from a few of the affected property owners. Their argument? They conceded that land could be acquired under the Texas Law of Eminent Domain for a railroad. But their  position on the Dallas-Houston rail line was—are you ready?— that Texas Central Railway was not, in actual fact, a railroad.

The sole justification for that argument was that Texas Central had not acquired any actual railroad equipment . . . you know . . . like locomotives. 

No one expected the lawsuit to go anywhere . . . that it would be quickly and summarily dismissed. But it wasn’t and as the case rose ever-so-slowly through the Texas judicial system—surviving one appeal after another—professional jurists, law professors and amateur observers, including pro-rail organizations like the Rail Passengers Association, began to worry.

Finally, after nearly six years of delay, and with investment dollars flowing out and nothing coming in, the Texas Supreme Court finally rendered its decision:

Texas Central Railroad is, in fact, a railroad.

The rest of the world has been traveling with high-speed trains for decades. And in the United States, we are going to court where it has taken literally years to decide if a railroad is, in fact, a railroad.

It’s absurd . . . it’s ridiculous . . . It’s embarrassing.