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Cypress community meets in wake of high-speed Houston-Dallas train talks

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CYPRESS, Texas – Hours after officials in Houston announced the Northwest Mall as the proposed stop for a planned high-speed railroad between the Bayou City and Dallas, residents along the proposed rail line got to give their thoughts on the project.

The Federal Railroad Administration hosted a public hearing Monday at Sadie Harris Woodard Elementary School in Cypress.

"Up to 50 homes would be affected," said Deddrick Wilmer, HOA president, White Oak Falls subdivision in Cypress.

Wilmer's neighborhood sits along the proposed line for the high-speed railroad.

While Wilmer supports the project in theory, he wants to make sure neighbors who will need to relocate get bought out at a rate possible for them to stay in the area.

"Give our residents an opportunity to have access to housing beyond the homes they are losing," Wilmer said.

Wilmer, along with roughly 200 others, attended Monday's meeting, which was a chance for residents to learn more about the FRA's Draft Environmental Impact Statement and voice their concerns about the project.

The FRA has 10 public hearings scheduled for its Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The agency said it will use comments made during the public hearings to modify its findings before it releases a final stance on the rail line's feasibility for the area.

The Federal Railroad Administration is not financing the project -- but has say so over the project's impact on the environment.

"It's the best train for Texas. It's very light and aerodynamic, which means it's very quiet and good for Texas soils," said Holly Reed, managing director of external affairs for Texas Central Partners, the private company hoping to build the railroad.

Texas Central will finance the project.

Not everyone agrees. Many present at Monday's public comment hearing expressed doubt that the project's financial projections are sound enough to fall solely on the private sector.

"It's not feasible. There's not the ridership to back it," said Rhonda Jordan, who attended Monday's meeting.

"We shouldn't burden Texans with taking their land for this type of project," added Connie Shivvers, also in attendance Monday.

Others present Monday welcomed the rail line and its projected benefits for the region.

"This will be good for business and growth for Houston's economy," said Grier Johnson.

The Federal Railroad Administration will continue its public comment period through March 9. From there, it will produce its full Environmental Impact Statement.

The FRA's findings are separate from findings proposed by Texas Central Partners, which hopes to begin construction on the project by early next year.