ATTORNEY GENERAL AND TXDOT CONTINUE HIDING SECRET HSR “FEASIBILITY STUDY” FROM LANDOWNERS
Travis County Court Rules State Agency Can Hide Information from the Public
Jewett, Texas – In exchange for the use of its taxpayer-funded resources, Texas Central disclosed a Feasibility Study to TxDOT in 2015, and now the Texas Attorney General and a district judge are blocking this document from review by the public. The study – commissioned and paid for by Texas Central’s foreign partner the Japan Bank for International Cooperation – allegedly shows that the proposed high-speed rail will attract millions of passengers each year while generating billions in economic benefits to counties along the affected corridor. Yet, Texas Central has fought hard for the past two years to make sure the study never sees the light of day.
TAHSR filed an open records request for the Feasibility Study, but the Attorney General ruled that Texas Central could withhold the document from the public. The Attorney General made this ruling even though the document is now a government record in the possession of TxDOT, a state agency.
TAHSR filed suit in Travis County against TxDOT and the Attorney General, seeking judicial review of the Attorney General’s decision. Texas Central intervened in the lawsuit, and moved for a summary judgment claiming that release of the study would “give advantage” to its competitors and “substantially harm” its competitive position. This is despite the fact that Texas Central has pushed back the project’s start date to 2023 (at the earliest), and secured less than 1% of the $20 billion in financing it needs to construct the rail line. Additionally, even though the document is not even owned by Texas Central, the company also claimed that it should be allowed to hide the study from TAHSR and the public because “TAHSR’s stated purpose is to inflict substantial harm on TCR.”
At the summary judgment hearing on October 5, Texas Central appeared with an army of attorneys and corporate representatives. Unfortunately, the court sided with Texas Central’s corporate interests and granted its summary judgment. As a result, Texas Central can continue to hide the Feasibility Study from the thousands of landowners who stand to lose their private property to the Japanese government for this ill-advised project, as well as keep the public in the dark about the public necessity and long-term feasibility of this project.
Although TAHSR is disappointed that the court put Texas Central’s private interests before those of the public, TAHSR will continue to demand transparency from Texas Central, TxDOT and the Attorney General. And TAHSR will continue to fight Texas Central at every turn so property rights and tax dollars are not stolen for a foreign-driven private project destined for failure.
TAHSR President Kyle Workman said of the judgement, “The public doesn’t need their trade secrets, but we do need justification for their plans to take private property. If this document held such a fantastic forecast for their project, it should be part of their marketing materials…not hidden at all cost. This is yet another attempt to hide the truth from the public.”