Friday morning rail news:
— Texas Central Railway won a significant court ruling Thursday when a state appeals court said the company is a railroad in legal terms, even though it does not yet operate any trains. The decision by Judge Nora Longoria for the Thirteenth Appeals Court of Texas overturns a lower court ruling that agreed with landowners along the route of the planned high speed rail line between Dallas and Houston. Landowners Jim and Barbara Miles contended that the company was not a railroad and therefore did not have the related rights, including eminent domain and access to property for surveyors. “This decision confirms our status as an operating railroad,” Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar said in a press release, “and allows us to continue moving forward with our permitting process and all of our other design, engineering and land-acquisition efforts.” Texans Against High Speed Rail, which has led efforts to oppose the Texas Central project, posted a statement on its Facebook page saying the Mileses “intend to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, which has consistently and repeatedly recognized the importance of private property rights in Texas.”
— A deal by the Colorado Department of Transportation to buy a former downtown Denver rail yard from Union Pacific, allowing expansion of Interstate 25 and Denver’s light rail system, could be in jeopardy because of budget constraints created by the coronavirus pandemic. Colorado Public Radio reports the deal to buy the former Denver & Rio Grande Burnham Yard is threatened because of a potential $198 million funding cut for the department over the next three years, leading at least one CDOT commissioner to say he was “very doubtful” the agency could now afford to buy the land. UP reached agreement with the Department of Transportation in February on a deal to sell 59 acres of the yard site for $50 million [see “News Wire Digest for Thursday, Feb. 20”]. The DOT would use the land to relocate a rail line, creating room to widen I-25, and to add additional track at a key junction in the Regional Transportation District’s light rail system.
— LA Metro is joining the transit agencies requiring passengers to wear masks or other face coverings to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The agency announced Thursday that coverings will be required as of Monday, May 11. In a blog post on its website, the agency said it will “enforce this requirement to the extent that is practical — and we’ll be considering the best way to enforce this rule going forward,” and will be looking for ways to help riders obtain face coverings while protecting its supply of masks for workers. A large number of transit agencies are already requiring masks or other coverings, and Amtrak announced Thursday it would also require them on trains and in stations as of May 11 [see “Amtrak to require passengers to wear facial coverings,” Trains News Wire, May 7, 2020].