BY T.F. STERN
My wife and I own property on the north side of Houston and another piece of property half way between Dallas and Houston close to where the proposed High Speed Rail (HSR) reportedly would be constructed and operate. Being a taxpayer and property owner means I have a ‘dog in this fight’.
You can review all DEIS-related documents and provide comments to the FRA directly at this link: https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0779
We’ve been assured by those in favor of this very expensive project that all manner of funds have been secured and that land right of way will be covered by eminent domain since this project will serve the entire public. Supposedly construction costs along with operating expenses have been calculated and support going ahead with a fancy technologically advanced Bullet Train that will take passengers from Houston to Dallas with a few stops along the way.
It has been suggested that a one-way fare on this train will cost approximately $200. I hope this information is inaccurate; but even so that’s not competitive with existing air fare that is already in place and that existing air transportation is not taxpayer subsidized, something which the HSR package will heavily depend upon for operational expenses and maintenance.
Aside from the assurance (same as any promise made by a politician) that funding has been or will be secured for the entire project, there are other factors which should be of concern. The highest on that list, very few folks I’ve talked to think the project is even wanted; except by those who would make a considerable pot of money for building this boondoggle of a money pit.
The folks along the path of the HSR concern me the most. Eminent Domain is a sticky subject, one that has been abused more and more over the years. We are being asked to take the government’s word that property rights will be respected, that any land required will be obtained in an equitable manner. If that were true then the existing corridor between Houston and Dallas would be the site of the HSR.
I read where the proposed Houston Terminal for the HSR might be near the old Northwest Shopping Mall (Highway 290 and 610 Loop). There was a picture posted, an artist’s conceptual image that would make us all proud to have such a structure. Why build the terminal adjacent to a financially rundown location when a real hot spot would be closer to a financially robust area such as the Galleria?
It would make more sense to have the HSR along the I-45 corridor, one that already exists, as there are multiple Park and Ride lots stationed along that route. Folks wanting to use such a Bullet Train back and forth, Houston to Dallas, would in all probability want to be dropped off at convenient locations where they could access their car(s) or be picked up in a timely manner rather than add additional expenses such as taxi, Uber or rental units.
Some folks are pushing in favor of this never-ending taxpayer money pit, not an exaggeration of terms. Passenger rail service has proven to be a huge burden on taxpayers as Amtrak must be subsidized (taxpayer funded forever) just to keep afloat, according to a report by the Cato Institute.
I’d forgotten; we’ve been promised (same as any promise made by a politician) that would never happen with this new Bullet Train project. Projected expenses will be kept and the HSP would come in under budget and within the time frame assigned without the need for taxpayer funding. (There’s some beach front property in Arizona for sale if you believe that.)
Nothing has been said about recent passenger rail accidents that have killed and maimed so many folks in the past month or so. Three major Amtrak (government run) passenger train accidents doesn’t exactly build public confidence for building yet another, a chance to ride into the eternities via a Bullet Train traveling at speeds approaching 200mph (guided missile), one that runs on railroad tracks.
What about protecting this vast stretch of rail, approximately 240 miles depending on where terminals are located, what about protecting this investment from acts of terrorism? I didn’t see any mention of how that might be accomplished; but then again, what difference would it make? (borrowing a line from Hillary Clinton when several Americans were killed in Benghazi).
My last concern has to do with a recent Court Decision wherein it was ruled that governments, local, State or Federal were not obligated to keep contractual agreements. This ruling was attached to police and fire fighter’s pensions in Rhode Island; however, this ruling sets the president upon which any and all contracts made with government entities will look to. It validates my insistence, promises from government officials aren’t worth the paper they are written on. (same as any promise made by a politician)
Sorry; but these and a host of reasons that I’ve not even considered make such a proposed HSR project unacceptable.
Self-Educated American, Senior Editor, T.F. Stern is both a retired City of Houston police officer and, most recently, a retired self-employed locksmith (after serving that industry for 40 plus years). He is also a gifted political and social commentator. His popular and insightful blog, T.F. Sterns Rantings, has been up and at it since January of 2005.