HSR group spreads message

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A lot of questions and concerns have been raised about a high-speed railway coming through Madison County.

In response to these questions and concerns, members of the Texas Central Partners of the Texas Central Railway held an informational session on Friday night at the Truman Kimbro Center. TCP is the company who wants to build a high-speed railway from Houston to Dallas, and part of the railway is projected to go through Madison County.

“We picked up a lot of concerns and we want folks to get all the facts about this project,” TCP vice-president of government relations Travis Kelley said. “We wanted to present information and allow people to talk to us to ask questions and express their concerns.”

Approximately 10 informational booths were set up in the Kimbro Center — all of them containing information on the 240-mile project. There were approximately 150 people who attended the session — many of whom voiced their opposition to the project.

One resident expressed her favor in the project, however.

“The state of Texas is growing too fast and too quickly for us to just stand idly by and do nothing to address our traffic problems,” Madisonville resident Camryn Frederick said. “By 2035, the state’s population and traffic will increase to the point where it will take seven hours to get from Dallas to Houston. This project will acquire the least amount of land compared to other proposed projects like the Trans-Texas Corridor.”

Frederick, a sophomore at Madisonville High School, also spoke on the high-speed rail project as her Ag Issues group’s topic of discussion during district, area and state competitions. The group will speak on the project in October during the national FFA convention.

There are two proposed alignments for the project — one that runs parallel with the BNSF (Burlington Northern-Santa Fe) Railroad tracks and another labeled the “utility alignment.” The BNSF alignment is projected to run through Harris, Waller, Grimes, Madison, Leon, Limestone, Freestone, Navarro, Ellis and Dallas counties, while the utility alignment is projected to run through Harris, Montgomery, Grimes, Madison, Leon, Freestone, Navarro, Ellis and Dallas counties.

Both proposed alignments run west of Interstate 45 and both are projected to run through the Western portion of Madison County. Kelley said his company prefers the utility alignment.

“The utility alignment has less of an impact on private property,” he said.

Kelley said his company already expressed preference to the utility alignment to the Federal Railroad Administration. However, the route that will be approved is up to the FRA, not TCP.

“We expect the FRA to publish that route later this year,” Kelley said. “It all depends on environmental studies and public feedback to determine which route is the best suitable one.”

North Zulch resident Wyona Ballard spoke to the audience briefly about her opposition to the project.

“Through feast, famine, drought, tornadoes, hurricanes, marriage, divorce, death, etc. this land has been in my family for 152 years,” Ballard said. “I won’t sit idly by and let my property be used to build a train.”

Representatives from the Texans Against High Speed Rail were in attendance as well. They believe the cost estimates by TCP for the project are “too low” and the ridership estimates are “too high.”

The group believes tax dollars will be needed to complete the project. A press release from TCP says different, however.

“This is not a government project. It is not even a P3 — ‘public-private partnership,’” the release states. “Rather, TCP is a privately funded business, promoting the development of a product in an industry that is regulated by government.”

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