Texas high-speed rail project faces fight over eminent domain (Video)

Texas high-speed rail project faces fight over eminent domain : As far as David Risinger Sr. is concerned, just because a company calls itself a railroad doesn’t make it one.

Especially, he said, when the company in question, Texas Central Railroad and Infrastructure Inc., didn’t exist until 2012 — and to this day owns no depots, locomotives, tracks or ties.

That’s why when Risinger, who owns a 220-acre farm near Ferris — about 25 miles south of downtown Dallas — was contacted by a land consultant representing the high-speed rail company who was seeking permission to enter his property for a survey, he refused.

Texas Central Railroad and Infrastructure, which is trying to buy up land for a proposed high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston, then filed a lawsuit alleging that Risinger, 81, had no right to stand in the way of the project.

That lawsuit and more than 30 others filed in mostly rural counties up and down the corridor are the latest in a series of legal moves that have raised eyebrows along the proposed Texas Central Railway route.

“They said I’m costing them millions of dollars and the project was so big that it just could not be stopped,” said Risinger, whose family has raised cattle and grown cotton, corn and other crops on their Ellis County property since 1892. “I want to know who gives a private company the right to come and take my property — for their profit.”

The courthouse drama is only part of the activity.

Texas Central also is gobbling up purchase options on land along the route, offering property owners upfront payments equal to a percentage of the purchase price in exchange for their cooperation. The options give the company until December 2019 to decide whether to buy the land outright and pay the owners the balance.

A handful of property owners have accepted the offers, officials on both sides of the issue say, although the precise number cannot be determined by public records.

The land rush is reminiscent of the early days of a big oil and gas play, with property owners receiving mineral rights bonuses whether or not the explorer actually drills a well on or near their land.

Except this time, the payoff isn’t black gold bubbling out of the soil — but instead a $12 billion to $18 billion, Japanese-style bullet train.

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