An Ellis County Judge set for trial a case on Texas Central Railway’s assertion that it is a railroad company, according to court documents.
Judge Jim Chapman issued the ruling Monday, Jan. 28 at the Ellis County Court at Law One. According to court documents, Chapman denied the TCR motion for a summary judgment order declaring that their organization qualifies as a railroad company under Texas law.
Under Chapman’s ruling, TCR and the landowners now have to move forward into separate trials in their respective cases.
“This ruling doesn’t surprise us, given that Texas Central has never produced any documentation of eminent domain authority,” Texans Against High-Speed Rail president Kyle Workman stated in a press release.
According to the company website, TCR is a private company that seeks to develop a 386-kilometer high-speed bullet train line from Houston to Dallas. The company states that they estimate the line would reduce travel time from four and a half hours to 90 minutes.
The defendants in the court filing, landowners Ronny Caldwell, William Getzendaner and Darren Eagle, also filed motions for summary judgments against TCR. Chapman denied those motions as well.
Caldwell expressed satisfaction with the ruling, stating that this was the second time the company has sued him.
“Texas Central sued me back in 2016, then dropped the lawsuit after I hired an attorney and filed my papers,” Caldwell stated. “Then they sued me again in 2018. For years, I’ve been asking them to show me proof they are a railroad with eminent domain. They never could.”
A TCR spokesperson, however, noted that the judge did not rule on the merits of the case itself – only that it should proceed to trial.
“The court did not rule that Texas Central was not a railroad company or interurban electric railway,” the spokesperson stated. “And did not it rule on its eminent domain authority. The trial and any appeal will determine these issues.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson stressed that this ruling does not impede the company’s operations or environmental assessment. A Global Construction review article estimated that the project would support 10,000 jobs during each year of its construction, which could potentially begin in 2019.
Defense attorney Patrick McShan called the TCR legal arguments “absurd,” adding that his defense team is prepared to face them in court.
“It’s like a broken record,” McShan expressed. “How many more of these cases does Texas Central and their army of lawyers have to lose before they get it through their heads that bringing a bunch of boxes of papers to the courthouse to show how much work you’ve done doesn’t mean you can violate someone’s private property rights?”
TCR said they looked forward to showing it has authority to access and survey private land.
“We look forward to showing that the laws of Texas irrefutably give this project authority, as a railroad company, to access and survey private land to help determine the train’s most advantageous route between Houston and North Texas,” a spokesperson said.
* A previous version of this story incorrectly stated TCR had to move forward into separate trials and did not include the landowners. The story has since been updated with accurate information.