Texas Central has eminent domain for the Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail

Move on luxury bus routes and fast flights. Central Texans should be on the lookout for bulldozers and train stops. On June 24, 2022, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure, Inc. and related entities (collectively “Texas Central”) have eminent domain authority to acquire property for a proposed high-speed railroad system. speed between Dallas and Houston. .[1] Specifically, the Court ruled that the company qualified as an “intercity electric railroad company” under the Texas Transportation Code. The decision grants Texas Central broad convicting power to purchase land for the project.

Texas Central has statutory power to take land

The plaintiff in that case, a farm owner with property south of Dallas along the proposed high-speed rail route, challenged the company’s power to condemn land. The landowner’s declaratory judgment action challenged Texas Central’s prominent domain authority. Under Texas law, the power to convict must be conferred by the legislature, either expressly or by necessary implication.[2]

Here, Texas Central was established for the purpose of constructing, acquiring, maintaining, or operating electric railroad lines between municipalities in Texas. The Court found that Texas Central engaged in activities aimed at achieving this objective. Therefore, the Court found that although legislators did not contemplate high-speed railroads when the Transportation Code was drafted, Texas Central nonetheless qualified as “intercity electric railroads” under the law.

The Texas Transportation Code grants eminent domain powers to corporations commissioned for the purpose of constructing, acquiring, maintaining, or operating electric railroad lines between municipalities in Texas for the transportation of goods, passengers or both. The Court further held that Texas Central did not have to demonstrate a “reasonable probability that the railroad would be successfully completed”.[3]

Impact on Texans and industries

Approximately 24,300 people travel daily between Dallas and Houston by plane or personal vehicle.[4] Thus, the demand for easy travel between the two major cities exists. The proposed rail system cuts the journey from almost four hours to around 90 minutes. Now that Texas Central has Eminent Domain Authority, investors will likely emerge to back the bullet train project.

Beyond the shorter route, the project will impact many communities and industries. For example, Texas Central will need to begin the eminent domain process on affected land along the rail line. The land taking process in Texas involves a fair and adequate property compensation hearing. This affects landowners of the high-speed railway. Additionally, Texas Central will have to build the railroad, which will involve a major construction project leading to tendering, and later project management and monitoring of railroad construction.


[1] Miles c. Texas Cent. RR & Infrastructure, Inc.647 SW3d 613 (Tex. 2022)

[2] See Tex. const. art. 1, § 17.

[3] Miles647 SW3d to 627.

[4] https://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/news/2020/04/15/texas-central-high-speed-rail.html#:~:text=Between%20personal%20vehicles%20and%20air,Dallas%20and %20Houston%20every%20day

Copyright © 2022, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 270

Jose P. Rogers