A series of public hearings have been scheduled in counties that would be affected by the proposed Dallas-to-Houston bullet train.
The Federal Railroad Administration, which released its preliminary findings on a proposed route for the high-speed rail in its draft environmental impact statement earlier this month, will have meetings in 10 counties, including Grimes, Madison and Leon counties in the Brazos Valley.
The first of those Brazos Valley meetings will be in Leon County from 5 to 9 p.m. Jan. 30 at Leon High School. The Madison County meeting will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 5 at Madisonville High School, and the Grimes County meeting is Feb. 6 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Navasota Middle School. Meetings are also planned in Dallas, Navarro, Ellis, Limestone, Freestone, Harris and Waller counties.
Texas Central plans to transport passengers between Dallas and Houston in 90 minutes on trains traveling up to 205 miles per hour. Its only stop would be in Grimes County, near Texas 90 and Texas 30.
The lengthy report released Dec. 15 by the Federal Railroad Administration provided a clearer look at the project's preferred route. And while the draft does not grant any approval or authorizations for the project, Texas Central called it a "major milestone."
"Thousands of hours have been spent to ensure the Texas Bullet Train will be constructed and operated in a way that gives Texans a choice for the safest mode of transportation in the world," Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar said in a press release. "This process ensures issues identified are addressed in the best way possible for communities and the environment. We will respectfully follow this public consultation process to ensure legitimate concerns from all stakeholders are addressed."
Texas Central has said it plans to only use eminent domain as a last resort to require the land needed for the project, but that possibility has drawn opposition from rural landowners whose property could be needed for the project. While the plan has its detractors, Texas Central has said the high-speed rail will bring major benefits to areas along the route, including Grimes County. The private company says it believes the project will create jobs and spur economic activity in those areas, in addition to the $2.5 billion in taxes it expects to pay over the next 25 years to taxing entities along the route.
A 60-day public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement is open until Feb. 20. Comments can be submitted via email to DallasHoustonHSR@urs.com or through the FRA's website.