Dallas to Houston high-speed rail’s speed bump: property values

Joe Martin | Houston Business Journal

An estimated 400 people packed in to a community meeting held Jan. 5 at Lutheran North High School to voice their opinions on the Texas Central Railway, a proposed high-speed rail from Dallas to Houston.

Elected officials of state and local offices, presidents of homeowners association, realtors and concerned constituents were in the audience, and most had concerns or criticisms of the proposed routes of the bullet train, and the potential impact it could have on the property values of their homes.

“The concept is interesting, but if it’s going to affect quality of life, then there has to be a lot more thought put into it,” Ellen Cohen, Houston city council member, told the Houston Business Journal.

The issue landed squarely on the locations of two routes and how they would cut through neighborhoods. Homeowners near the existing BNSF train track say they feel the vibrations of trains passing by and hear the horn’s whistle. An additional train passing by as often as every 30 minutes would be a further nuisance, homeowners said.

Sound and vibration studies on the Texas Central Railway routes have yet to be announced.

Currently, the routes are projected to go into the downtown corridor, where they can connect with the central business district of the city. But that means cutting through some of Houston’s long-standing neighborhoods, a plan that has prompted vocal opposition by homeowners because the train would run in their backyards.

The measurable impact that the train could have on property values has yet to be determined, and explicit dollar figures are hard to calculate because, in the end, it falls on a buyer’s preferences, said Amy Bernstein of Bernstein Realty.

“The unknown is of concern to anyone,” she told the HBJ. “There are people who will see it as a negative and there are people who will see it as a positive.”

She added that, because a concept like high-speed rail is foreign to a lot of people, homeowners are concerned about what impact a rail line will have on their homes and neighborhoods.

However, as was pointed out in last night’s meeting, the two routes receiving the most scrutiny are the paths of least resistance into the city, even though those along Interstate 45 have said they’d be interested in having a train stop at The Woodlands.

“The routes that have been selected are the routes that affect the fewest number of people,” said Judge Robert Eckels, president of the Texas Central Railway.

The TCR hopes to have the train online by 2021.

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