Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Developers of a planned bullet train between Dallas and Houston have raised $75 million in private funds from Texas investors and named a new CEO, company officials announced this morning.  
Tim Keith, who led a global infrastructure investment firm and is a former Hunt Realty Investments executive, will helm Texas Central Partnersas it tries to build the country’s first high-speed rail line. The company is also planning developments around the line’sstations in Dallas, College Station and Houston.
Keith and other company officials said the $75 million raised for development of the 240-mile line connecting the state’s two largest metro areas shows that businesses see the project’s “transformational opportunity.”
“It’s Texans investing in Texas,” Keith said.
Among investors announced today is Jack Matthews, whose Dallas firm Matthews Southwest developed the downtown Omni Dallas Hotel and South Side on Lamar mixed-used project in the Cedars. Matthews is also a member of Texas Central’s board.
Keith grew up in North Texas and has a long career in both finance and infrastructure. In an interview with DallasNews.com, he said he’s long been fascinated by the ways in which transportation projects can transform cities and spur economic growth.
“To do that in my home state is an incredible opportunity that I never dreamed would come along,” he said.
Company officials hope to carry passengers between the two cities, with a stop near College Station, in 90 minutes by 2021. The project has generated buzz among officials. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Houston Mayor Annise Parker released statements this morning heralding the project.
Plans have also garnered attention from Texans who are accustomed to driving about four to five hours between the two metropolitan areas. Government officials say increased congestion on Interstate 45 will make that drive a six-hour trek by 2035.
But Keith and his company have plenty of obstacles to overcome before the project becomes a reality. State and federal authorities are still evaluating the line. And organized opposition from rural Texans who farm and live in the large expanse between Dallas and Houston that nearly derailed the project during this year’s legislative session has not died down.
Many landowners oppose the fact that Texas Central is allowed to use eminent domain for the project. Company officials say they plan to work with residents and will only use eminent domain as a last resort, when a land deal simply can’t be reach.
But Kyle Workman, president of Texans Against High Speed Rail, said that eminent domain will have to be used in most cases.
“Because nobody wants to sell their land,” he said.   
Brandon Formby/ Dallas Morning News