8 sheriffs say they weren't consulted on Texas High Speed Rail emergency plan

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A coalition of eight Texas sheriffs whose counties are in the path of the proposed Texas High Speed Rail project said they've never been consulted about an emergency plan involving the project.

It's an issue, they said, because of the road detours that could take place during construction of the tracks for the 200 MPH train that would link Houston and Dallas. The sheriffs said it raises concerns about emergency response times.

"I take particular exception to the Federal Railroad Administration saying response times increased due to detours during construction to be within acceptable limits. I don't find that acceptable because I haven't had any conversations with anybody," said Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell.

A nearly 6,000 page environmental impact statement has now been completed by Texas Central High-Speed Railway, and released in recent days.

"I actually spent a few days the first of this week meeting with school districts. What spurred this one was the release of the document, and we need to continue to get input on this," said David Hagy, vice president of Texas Central.

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Landowners voiced concerns about public safety, and also their way of life.

"I'm concerned I won't be able to shoot my gun to protect my cattle from predators, like coyotes," said one ranch owner. "They may have a law that you can't do that around a railway."

Others are concerned about their property remaining their own. Joyce Floyd owns a farm that she says has been in her family for nearly 200 years.

"That's where they want to put the rail station, between Houston and Dallas," she said.

Hagy said 30 percent of the land acquisition has been completed in Waller and Grimes counties. So far, he said eminent domain has not been used. Property owners today said state law doesn't allow for that. Hagy said the issue "is in dispute."

The project is estimated to cost more than $10 billion, and the price for riding is said to be competitive with airline prices. The Federal Railroad Administration is expected to rule on the project by the end of the year.

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