Whether a rail line will cross through Matagorda County from the Fort Bend/Brazoria County Rail District project is still in its early stages of discussion, a coalition of Matagorda County residents are united in their opposition to the railroad line.
Louis Peter, who is representing Matagorda and Wharton County residents in the coalition, spoke out against the proposed rail line during Monday’s meeting of the Matagorda County Rural Rail Transportation District meeting.
“They have been talking about doing this for six to eight years,” said Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald and district board member. “They mentioned they were trying to find a way to pay for this project. One of their plans show them entering into the northern part of Matagorda County and unless they have some kind of agreement with the landowners, you are going to have a tough time getting this done in Matagorda County.
“I don’t even know where they are going with this project yet,” McDonald said. “It does appear that one of their routes appears to enter northern Matagorda County. We don’t have a seat on the Fort Bend/Brazoria County Rail District Project just like they don’t have a seat on this district. We could ask to be heard on this project.”
MC Rural Rail Transportation District President Tim Powell stated that the FB/BC Rail District has gained a $600,000 grant from TxDOT for a feasibility study for the proposed project but McDonald said that is not near enough to fully invest into a study on this project.
Powell questioned if the FB/BC Rail District would have to gain permission from Matagorda County before the rail line could be placed in the county and Matagorda County EDC Director Mike Ferdinand said he would have to look into that and get back with the district.
“I was approached back in March about this project and asked to reach out to our railroad users to see if their were any potential users that might benefit from this rail line,” Ferdinand said. “Our manufactures informed them possibly but they were too early in the planning process to share any detailed information and it has been quiet since then.”
Peter, who is a lifelong resident of Matagorda County and lives in the Cedar Lane community that is projected to be impacted by the rail line.
“That community in Matagorda County is directly in the path of this railroad,” Peter said. “What concerns us about this railroad is the lack of involvement by our citizens and county officials in the routing and planning phases. I personally understand the need for the project as originally planned, a direct rail route along Hwy. 36 from the Port of Freeport to the Rosenberg rail terminal to reduce traffic on Hwy. 36.
“However, residents of Brazoria and Fort Bend County and some of their elected officials recognized this project as a dumpster fire and are now trying to sneak it into our community,” Peter said. “Our coalition recognizes adding 12 miles to this project to run it through Matagorda and Wharton is environmentally and fiscally irresponsible.”
Peter pointed out major concerns include lack of information on routing that effects the safety, environment and quality of life; direct impact on property values and tax revenues for school districts and county tax entities; lack of participation in planning and board governance and the fiscal risk to Matagorda County taxpayers if we become legally obligated for bond payments if port revenue does grow if expected.