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Lawmaker's Bill a Silver Bullet to Stop Train

A bill filed by state Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, Wednesday would require the governing body of every city and county along the route to approve a planned high-speed rail project. There's very little chance that would happen.

The JR Central N700 Series, a Japanese Shinkansen bullet train.

A lawmaker whose district sits near the proposed route for a planned bullet train connecting Houston and Dallas filed a bill Wednesday that could stop the project in its tracks.

House Bill 1889 from state Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, a persistent critic of the plan, would require the elected officials of every city and county along the route to approve the project. That seems improbable, given the opposition in some rural areas.

Texas Central High-Speed Railway has spent millions developing a privately financed bullet train to carry passengers between Houston and Dallas in 90 minutes. The company has said it hopes to have the train running by 2021. The federal government, which must approve any new passenger rail system, is in the middle of an environmental impact study of the project, which is being paid for by Texas Central. 

While officials in Houston and Dallas have championed the project, officials and residents in rural communities in between have questioned how it would benefit them.

"Numerous county officials have come out in opposition to the Texas Central Railway and their use of eminent domain," Metcalf wrote Wednesday on Facebook. "This bill would help give more local control and would let individual counties decide what is best for them."

Metcalf has been an outspoken critic of the project, which at one point had the potential to go through his district in Montgomery County. Earlier this month, Texas Central revealed its preferred route, which would completely bypass Montgomery County. Metcalf said in a statement at the time that the route did not dampen his desire to see the project stopped.

“We need more roads for citizens to travel to ease our existing roadways," Metcalf said. "We do not need a high speed railway in Texas that will only benefit a few, while at the same time disturbing thousands of citizens within its path.”

Texas Central President Robert Eckels called Metcalf's bill "a solution in search of a problem."

"While we disagree with the approach of this bill, we look forward to working with and educating other members of the Legislature that want to join us in supporting free enterprise, economic development, and private-sector transportation solutions for Texans," Eckels said.

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Transportation 84th Legislative Session High-speed rail