High speed rail opponent attorney sees progress
Dallas attorney and Limestone County landowner Blake Beckham gave Limestone County commissioners news of progress in the fight against the proposed high-speed railway between Dallas and Houston.
Beckham, of the law firm The Beckham Group, gave his report at the Dec. 28 commissioners court meeting, noting that he has represented Limestone as well as other counties in their opposition to the high-speed rail project before the Service Transportation Board in Washington, D.C.
Beckham’s land, on the east side of Limestone County, would be one of those directly affected.
“I love my land,” he said, “and all the rural people I’ve met have a real affinity with their own land. The cities say, ‘Who cares, we’re just going through some guy’s ranch,’ but that’s been in his family for 100 years. They don’t understand heritage and family pride in property.”
Beckham is working pro bono, that is, at no charge; and he has many volunteers working with him. His group has paid for help from specialty, environmental lawyers in Washington, lobbyists in Austin, and public relations personnel in Washington, DC., he noted.
Opponents of the railway are attacking its finances, challenging its estimates of ridership; and working through legislation and litigation.
“The fight could not be going better,” Beckham said. “My plan from the beginning was to attack the financing. Somebody is going to have to fund this thing. Originally, Texas Central said the railway would take $10 billion to build. They were already lying from the first meeting. We had newspaper articles from Japan where they admitted their costs would be $12 billion. TxDOT said it’s going to take $18 billion, and I figure it’s going to take $20 billion.”
The extremely high cost, he said, is because of the specifications needed to build the train.
“This thing has to be fixed in a massive bed of concrete, and it can’t have a variance of more than a millimeter of vibration,” he said. “Otherwise you’ve got a 200-mile-an-hour rollercoaster going off the tracks.”
A second area of disagreement Beckham and his associates have with the high-speed rail is who will end up paying for it. Despite the high-speed railway’s statements that it would be funded only by private funds, Beckham believes otherwise.
According to the Texas Central website: “The railroad will not seek grants from the U.S. government or the state of Texas, nor any operational subsidy.”
In another part of the website, however: “As for federal loans, the project will explore all forms of capital available to private companies to finance debt for the project, including federal loan programs like RRIF and TIFIA.”
“What we know now,” Beckham said, “is that Ron Kirk, the former mayor of Dallas, a liberal guy, is one of their ambassadors; and he is going to aggressively seek federal loans, federal grants, which may well mean we all pay for it through our taxes or it’s a bailed-out project by the Texas tax-payers.”
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