More than two dozen state lawmakers have signed a letter urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to end work related to a high-speed rail project that would pass through the Brazos Valley.
The letter, written by District 13 State. Rep. Ben Leman, says the project’s developer, Texas Central Partners, “simply does not have the financial resources required or expertise employed to continue with this project.”
“To proceed otherwise would be an inexcusable waste of taxpayer dollars and jeopardizes the integrity of the rules making process at the Federal Railroad Administration,” states the letter, which was signed by Brazos Valley lawmakers state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, state Sen. Charles Schwertner of Georgetown and state Rep. Kyle Kacal of Bryan.
Last month, Dallas-based Texas Central laid off 28 employees, citing the coronavirus outbreak. In a prepared statement, company CEO Carlos Aguilar said the project would be delayed because of pandemic-related issues with its partners in Italy, Spain and Japan.
“Unfortunately, like many other companies and organizations around the world, we have been forced to make hard decisions in an effort to make the best use of our current funding,” Aguilar said in the statement. “Our core team of experts and planners remain actively engaged and prepared to move this project forward when we have our permits and the financial markets have stabilized.”
The proposed high-speed passenger train would travel between Houston and Dallas. The 240-mile route would take less than 90 minutes, with a stop in Roans Prairie.
The company has said it has already secured 30% of land needed for the project, including 50% of the property needed in Grimes County.
Before the pandemic, the project’s completion was planned for 2026.
The cost of the project is estimated to be more than $20 billion, according to Leman’s letter. Texas Central Vice President Travis Kelly said in February the company is not seeking any state or federal taxpayer loans for the project.
Texas Central officials have “destablized their potential financing to the point they do not have the funding needed to move this project forward,” Leman says in his letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and “it is clearly time to bring all activity being conducted by the federal government regarding this project to a close.”
The letters says further dealings with Texas Central “is simply a waste of taxpayer dollars and resources ... that could otherwise be utilized combating the COVID-19 pandemic.”