Carlos Aguilar, CEO of Texas Central High Speed ​​Rail, announces his departure

The controversial Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail project first announced in 2014 is hitting another hurdle as CEO and Chairman Carlos Aguilar announced his departure from the company on Sunday.

“Given the reports in the international press today, I am announcing my departure from Texas Central,” Aguilar wrote on LinkedIn.

A Spanish news site in Madrid, “La Informacion”, reported that the entire Texas Central management team has left and that the project has entered “a phase of hibernation in search of funding”.

In 2018, Texas Central signed an agreement with Renfe, a Spanish railway operating company, to be “the strategic operational partner of the project.

Aguilar’s biography was absent from the Central Texas website since April, and not members of the management team are currently listed on the site.

“We are not surprised to hear the news of Carlos Aguilar’s departure,” said Texans Against High Speed ​​Rail board member Judge Trey Duhon. The Texan in an email.

“LinkedIn’s unorthodox announcement is a testament to the company’s lack of people, resources and leadership, with no successful path forward. No money, no permits, no progress…. It is completely clear that this project is more than dead in the water, especially when the captain leaves the ship,” he added.

Aguilar’s resignation statement went on to say he is proud of Texas Central’s accomplishments, including “end-to-end regulatory approvals for the first true high-speed rail project in our nation’s history.” .

“This was a most conscientious and complex undertaking, carefully addressing the concerns of landowners, stakeholders and providing opportunities for all sectors of our society, a FIRST for American infrastructure,” said- he added.

Aguilar’s statement hinted at some doubt about the future of the project, saying “eventually this team could get this desperately needed project going” and taking some of the blame on himself adding that it “could not align our current stakeholders around a common vision for a way forward.

The Texas Supreme Court has yet to issue its decision in the case. Miles vs. Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure. In January, the court heard the arguments whether Texas Central has eminent domain authority to seize private property along its proposed route.

While the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published its final rule to regulate the high-speed rail project in September 2020, Texas Central must still apply to begin construction with the Surface Transportation Board. He hasn’t done it yet.

When initially presented, the project was to be entirely financed by private funds. His website states, ​​“Texas Central is an investor-backed company that uses a market-driven financing approach led by a group of primarily Texas investors. The railroad will not seek US government or state of Texas grants or operating grants once operations begin. The project will be financed by a mix of debt and equity.

However, in 2020, Texas Central Board Chairman Drayton McLane Jr. sent a letter to Texas Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) indicating that the project had encountered economic difficulties and was seeking funds “hope[d] receive from President Trump’s infrastructure stimulus through the Department of Transportation.

Otherwise, on podcast in October 2021Aguilar said: “I think whatever happens with the infrastructure [bill] is the key for us. I think that would be the last piece that would bring us together,” he said, adding that they needed around $12 billion in loans.

Also indicative of possible problems was a announcement last fall by the owners of the lands proposed for the three stations along the high-speed rail line, that they intend to form a separate entity, the Texas High-Speed ​​Rail Station Development Corporation (SDC ), for the construction of stations along the route.

Developer Jack Matthews and investor John Kleinheinz have formed the SDC entity and intend to begin discussions with “various third parties who have successful experience with high-speed rail.”

Their press release contained hints that Japan’s deal with Texas Central might not be as solid as it once agreed. While saying they believe the United States and Japan will come to an agreement, they go on to say, “If a solution involving the Shinkansen system cannot be found, our station sites will be used to ensure that the high-speed train arrives in Texas. and integrates with the rest of the nation, using the best technology available.

Neither Texas Central nor McLane’s office responded to a request for comment on Texas Central’s future by the date of publication.

Jose P. Rogers