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Bullet train company wins right to take private land in Texas, but legal fight may not be over

Texas Central won the right to use eminent domain thanks to a court of appeals ruling.

HOUSTON — Part of the long-dead Northwest Mall site may eventually see new life as the local terminal for a Houston-to-Dallas bullet train.

It's among renderings Texas Central has released as it seeks to acquire land. That's something easier to do thanks to a new court ruling.

"Well, we got a very favorable decision,” said attorney Marie Yeates, who represents Texas Central.

The 13th District Court of Appeals decision means Texas Central can operate as a legitimate railroad.

“Texas Central Partners does constitute an entity that, under Texas law, has authority to survey property and, when necessary, to exercise eminent domain,” Yeates said.

Eminent domain means the taking of private land for public use, with fair market value compensation.

"I think you would need eminent domain to build a project along the route that has been approved by the federal authorities,” Yeates said.

Landowners along the proposed route, which runs mostly through rural areas, sued Texas Central to try and derail the project.

"The next legal step is an appeal to the supreme court,” said attorney Blake Beckham, of Dallas.

Beckham represents landowners and also serves as special counsel to the group Texans Against High-Speed Rail.

It takes issue with Texas Central, in particular.

“Texas Central is a Japanese-backed company selling a 50-year-old Japanese train system," Beckham said. "And the fact that they have infrastructure power in an eminent domain context is very upsetting.”

Beckham claims Texas Central has raised less than 1% of the $15 billion needed for construction and the company’s own timetable may be more uncertain thanks to recent layoffs due to COVID-19.

"They knew, from the beginning, the numbers they were selling the public and the press were grossly low," Beckham said.

“I’ll tell you, they’re going with all speed possible to bring this to a conclusion for the people of Texas,” Yeates said.

Both sides are full steam ahead when it comes to building or blocking the bullet train.

RELATED: Group opposing bullet train hosts town hall with congressman to gain support

RELATED: Developers say Houston-to-Dallas bullet train still on track as project clears another hurdle

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