Texas Central claimed today on their Facebook page that their “engineers are designing the high-speed railway with landowners in mind by creating FREQUENT and CONVENIENT points of elevated train tracks. Free movement of people, equipment, vehicles, livestock and wildlife is one of our main priorities.” However, on their own website they refer to their tracks as an obstacle by stating, “Of course any corridor—no matter how narrow—becomes an obstacle if you need to get to the other side.”
Currently, people, equipment, vehicles, livestock and wildlife move freely without any enclosed high-speed rail track impeding movement. Upon review of Texas Central’s Step 1 Screening of Corridor Alternatives Report there is no mention of free movement as one of their priorities. It is clear their priorities are financially driven. Page 22 of the report states the evaluation criteria used for weighting the corridor selection process is that financial and project delivery consideration is double weighted compared to engineering and environmental considerations.
Therefore, “The weighting selected reflects the critical importance of financial viability for the Project.” Page 132 states, “From an environmental impact evaluation standpoint, the alternatives with less developed and undeveloped lands were considered preferred.” It goes on to say, “The alignment with the most agricultural acreage in this analysis is the Utility Corridor Alignment and thus is the most favorable alignment based only on the land cover factor.” Page 140 is the “Corridor Evaluation Stoplight Chart.” While the evaluation considers many factors including financial viability, ROW acquisition, constructability issues, crossings, and prime farmland, there is no consideration for “free movement,” which is odd since they claim it to be a “priority.”
The Step 1 Screening of Corridor Alternatives Report is peppered with references to crossings of railroads, pipeline, roads and utility lines, yet no mention of crossings on private property. The true priorities are found on page 148.
- “…the Utility Corridor Alignment would present the fewest construction challenges and the least risk of financial viability given expected decreased costs and risks.”
- “The Utility Corridor Alignment stands out from the other alignment alternatives in terms of infrastructure crossings..”
- “The Utility Corridor Alignment has the lowest number of crossings…”
- “The Utility Corridor alignment would provide a more direct alignment through rural areas. This would ease construction requirements, make construction access easier, reduce costly impacts to existing development, reduce impacts to traffic, ease use of more advanced viaduct construction approaches, and allow for an accelerated construction schedule, which is critical for a privately funded project that will need to provide a reasonable return on investment for Project shareholders.”
The reality is that the free movement of people, livestock and wildlife is not a priority to the developers of this business venture backed by Japanese investors. Financial considerations are the bottom line and additional crossings equal increased costs.
Texas Central is not recreating the wheel. They are hoping to deploy technology already being utilized in Japan. Presumably, they know the specs and estimates of how much each crossing would cost to construct, as well as how many they could construct while still being financially feasible. But even while maintainting that they are committed to working with landowners, they have yet to provide any details on how much and how often they will provide access to landowners. The only real priority we have seen regarding landowners is when Texas Central made it a top priority to be in Austin to oppose any legislation supported by landowners, who were really making it a priority to protect their land and livelihoods. It was very clear that investor confidence was their only priority and not “working with landowners.”
So…Texas Central…landowners want to know exactly how often and how much access they will be granted after their land is taken. But, at this point, various access scenarios would at least make it seem like landowner access is even somewhere on the list.