Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bill seeks to authorize high speed rail authority for the Texas/Louisiana and Texas/Mexico borders.

Frost co-authors bill to create Texas high-speed rail authority


Jodi Sheridan
Texarkana Gazette
Copyright 2007

Texas Rep. Stephen Frost, D-Atlanta, thinks a piece of legislation is key to giving Northeast Texas more rail access.

Frost is co-authoring House Bill 3819 with state Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, to create a high-speed rail authority for the Texas/Louisiana and Texas/Mexico borders.

‘This bill aims to give us much more rail access in our area’ Frost said, adding it was vitally important for businesses looking to locate here or transport goods here. Frost said the Texas/Louisiana border referenced in the legislation encompasses the Northeast Texas area, so its time to step up and go after more rail access.

‘If we waited for the state to get us rail like we need, well be waiting for a very long time’ said Frost. The authority would be a political unit or body governing what would happen in securing more rail access, including where to put it, how to use funds and how it would be financed. ‘That would be their decision’ said Frost.

The authority would include 11 people appointed by the governor and have representatives from each county in the border region, creating a diverse voice, Frost said. The bill also addresses taxes, eminent domain and bonds. ‘Thats one way to finance it’ Frost said of issuing bonds to pay for construction.

However, the bill doesnt address where rail would be located. ‘There is no route in mind’ said Frost. ‘Thats where we would be looking for the input of the community and region. He said while officials would look to business and industry for input, ‘we also want to make sure whatever routes are chosen will be the least disruptive (to residents) in those areas.

HB 3819 has been scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday in the House Border and International Affairs committee. Frost said with most legislators focusing on their own projects, he and Merritt wont get a lot of feedback until after the committee meeting. ‘This is a work in progress’ he said. ‘I'm looking forward to getting the committees input on this bill.'

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