Before presenting questions regarding the project, the letter lays out the current status of the high-speed rail project as the landowners see it — having no future.
“We will not allow Texas Central to hold landowners hostage any longer,” the letter reads.
It begins by pointing out that former CEO and President Carlos Aguilar announced his resignation from the project in June.
Aguilar’s statement hinted at some doubt about the project’s future, saying, “[E]ventually, this team could implement this desperately-needed project,” and he took some of the blame upon himself by adding that he “could not align our current stakeholders on a common vision for a path forward.”
The landowners’ letter points out that FTI Consulting Senior Managing Director Michael Bui, who specializes in corporate restructurings, is now managing the project.
On July 8, FTI sent out a press release about the status of the project after the Texas Supreme Court ruled in its favor in an eminent domain case.
“Texas Central has made significant strides in the project over the last several years and we are moving forward on a path that we believe will ensure the project’s successful development. We look forward to being able to say more about this at an appropriate time in the near future,” the statement read.
Although Texas Central owns land in several counties along the proposed route, it appears the company is delinquent in paying property taxes totaling over $622,000 to those counties’ taxing entities.
Texas Central’s landowner hotline has been disconnected for months, the Houston office is listed for lease, and delinquency notices for overdue homeowner association fees sent to the Dallas headquarters have been returned undeliverable, the letter asserts.
In 2020, then-chairman Drayton McLane admitted that the cost of the project had ballooned to $30 billion. With “supply chain issues, rising construction costs, and inflation, among other factors, this estimate has undoubtedly increased substantially,” the letter asserts.
At one point, Aguilar admitted the project needed federal funding. “I think whatever happens with the infrastructure [bill] is key to us. I believe that would be the final element that would bring us together,” he said.
However, according to the letter, Texas Central has not applied for a federal loan nor has it applied for a construction permit through the Surface Transportation Board. That permit would include analysis of the economic viability of the project, engineering work, and application of the rules promulgated by FRA.
The letter presents a list of twenty questions that the landowners would like answered by Texas Central, including when construction will begin and what the source of funding will be.
The lawyers also notified Texas Central’s attorneys that if the questions are not answered fully and completely, they “intend to file a Rule 202 petition to investigate potential claims against Texas Central.”
A Rule 202 petition will allow the landowners’ attorneys to depose Texas Central either orally or through written questions to ”investigate a potential claim or suit.”
“Our clients and all other impacted landowners have suffered long enough. They deserve to be able to move on with their lives without Texas Central or the Project hanging over their heads,” the letter emphasizes. “They must be allowed once again to do with their property as they please, without interference from Texas Central.”
A copy of the landowners’ letter can be found below.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.