The recent Federal Railroad Administration hearing in Ellis County regarding the Texas High Speed Rail Bullet Train showcased the deep opposition here to this project. But even though the hearing is over, you can still fight the train online. You just have to do it the right way.
The FRA is giving people until March 9 to submit online comments and questions in connection with the agency’s Environmental Impact Statement. This may be your last chance to register your opposition, because we are getting close to the end of this process.
Everyone in Ellis County who opposes the train should take maximum advantage of this opportunity. To make the most of your online submissions, consider these tips:
• Read the Environmental Impact Statement. You can access it online at the FRA’s website or at one of the local libraries. It is hundreds of pages, but if you look closely, you can find many, many things to attack.
• Be concise. You only have 1,000 characters per entry, or less than 200 words. Type out your thoughts on your computer, then edit it so it sounds good, and determine the character count to be sure it will fit.
• Submit dozens of comments and questions. There is no limit to how many you can submit. Create one for each objection. The FRA is required to provide a written response to every question you raise. The more comments and questions the FRA receives, the more they will be impressed by the opposition here.
• Be specific. Focus on the precise objection. For instance, the impact statement makes no reference to bald eagles or black panthers, both endangered species. If you know of these animals in this area, raise that objection and tell where and when they were seen. It also makes broad statements about road closures and re-routings. If you recognize faulty information, focus your questions on that.
• Don’t be emotional. These are bureaucrats, and they have no feelings. They don’t care if your farm that will be split has been in the family for generations. Address facts, such as the fact that planned overpasses would not be tall enough to accommodate certain necessary farm equipment for you to work on both sides of the rail line.
• Rally your friends. Let’s say you submit 100 comments, but if you can get several involved and each of you submits 100, we’re talking massive numbers of objections that the FRA will be forced to address. This agency needs to know their environmental statement is faulty and the project should not proceed until it is fixed.
• Save everything. Save your own copy of every entry you submit, and every response that the FRA sends you via email. That could be useful later.
There is power in numbers. Government agencies are impressed when they get thousands of comments, and overwhelming public opposition has worked to overturn other projects like this in the recent past. This may be your best chance at this point to keep the High-Speed Rail project from moving forward.
Ken Cope is a longtime Ellis County resident and a Republican candidate for Congress in the Sixth District. Contact him at email@example.com.