Suit seeks to limit scope of land survey for proposed high speed rail

JEWETT, Texas — The TAHSR Land Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jim Miles, a Leon County resident, against Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure (TCRI), an affiliate of Texas Central Railway (TCR), to challenge an unprecedentedly broad “survey permission form” that landowners along the proposed route of the Dallas Houston HSR are being asked to sign.

The survey form seeks permission for TCRI, TCR, and other unnamed affiliates and representatives to enter private property to conduct a series of pre-condemnation surveys and invasive activities, like drillings and soil borings. The lawsuit, filed in the 87th District Court in Leon County on Friday, seeks a declaration that the survey form exceeds the scope of survey activities allowable under Texas law.

TCRI’s survey form is virtually unlimited in scope and duration, and it extends permission to an unlimited number of unnamed persons, affiliates, and entities.

As currently written, it would allow TCRI to send anyone it wanted to enter landowners’ private property to perform whatever activities it wanted for as long as it wanted, stated a release issued by TAHSR.

Additionally, TAHSR states the survey form does not identify any statute or authority that would allow TCRI to conduct surveys. It is unknown whether TCRI is claiming it has authority as a railroad, an interurban electric railway, or some other authority. Even if TCRI has authority to conduct surveys as a railroad or an electric railway, its survey form is far too broad and exceeds the limits of permissible surveys under Texas law.

Kyle Workman, president of TAHSR, said, “Despite claims of transparency and a commitment to work with landowners, no Texas Central official or affiliate has ever been able to provide the exact statute or evidence that their project is eligible for or has the authority of a railroad company. And although they have testified before our State Legislature that they have this authority, they are still unwilling to show proof. By TAHSR Land Defense Fund supporting this lawsuit, we are hoping to protect all the landowners who received this permission form, as well as the fundamental private property rights that would be trampled by the unlimited allowances of this survey permission form.”

Blake Beckham, TAHSR special litigation counsel and attorney for Jim Miles, stated, “We feel strongly that the survey form is unlawful. TCR and its affiliates should be immediately stopped from conducting any surveys until they explain to the court and to landowners why they believe they have authority to do so. Although they continue to claim transparency, this is yet another example of them withholding information from landowners whose property they intend to take. In the event they obtain the right to conduct surveys, those surveys must comply with the strict limits set forth under Texas law.”