DALLAS — Carlos Aguilar has stepped down as CEO of Texas Central after almost six years of leading the charge for a bullet train between Dallas and Houston.
Aguilar announced his departure on LinkedIn. He had been leading the company's effort to build a high-speed rail line backed by Japanese technology since December 2016. His decision to resign comes ahead of a pending ruling by the Texas Supreme Court in a case that could have decided the project's fate.
"I am immensely proud of the achievements of our team, gaining among many other accomplishments, end-to-end regulatory approvals for the first true high-speed rail project in our nation’s history," Aguilar wrote. "This was a most conscientious and complex endeavor, carefully addressing concerns from land owners, stakeholders, and providing opportunities to all sectors of our society, a first for U.S. infrastructure."
Aguilar said he plans to announce his next steps soon. He is a board member of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
Aguilar said most of what he called "graduates" of the company will transition to roles at other companies. "Eventually, this team could implement this desperately-needed project to improve safety, reduce traffic, reduce greenhouse emissions, and connect two of the most important metro centers in the country with the most advanced train service available," Aguilar said. "I will never forget your ethics, talent, dedication, and sheer resilience through it all!"
The company has not named a successor and lists no executives on the leadership page on its website.
Neither Texas Central nor Aguilar could be reached for comment. In his post, Aguilar expressed hope that a high-speed rail project will come to fruition in the future.
"While I could not align our current stakeholders on a common vision for a path forward, I wish the project the greatest success and remain convinced of the importance of this venture for the safety and prosperity of all Texans," Aguilar wrote.
The proposed $30 billion high-speed train would have traveled at a speed of up to 200 miles per hour and enabled passengers to travel between Dallas and Houston in about 90 minutes, according to Texas Central. The company argues the project will benefit Texas by taking cars off roads, creating thousands of jobs and generating billions of dollars in economic impact.
Many Texas land owners whose properties sit in the proposed path of the train opposed the project. James Miles of Leon County sued Texas Central in 2019 challenging whether the company has the authority to use eminent domain to take property for the project.
Blake Beckham, an attorney representing Miles, described Aguilar's resignation as "wonderful news."
"Carlos Aguilar has confirmed what we all knew implicitly, that this project is dead," Beckham said, adding that Texas Central has not applied for necessary permits or begun certain regulatory approval processes.
The fact that Texas Central has not named a successor "should be a sigh of relief for anybody that's interested in the rights of private land owners in Texas," Beckham said.
"The public is not in their favor, the landowners are not in their favor, the law isn't in their favor and the finances aren't in their favor," Beckham said. "The state is not in their favor and now, apparently, their CEO is taking a hike. I believe the project is dead."
Texas Central's financing has been an open question. Lawyers representing the counties of Grimes, Madison, Leon, Waller, Freestone, Ellis, Limestone and Navarro submitted a court filing in April month accusing Texas Central of being delinquent in paying more than $620,000 in property taxes.
Opponents have also accused the company of lying about whether it would take government money.
Aguilar has long maintained the project would be privately funded, and the company would not take public money. Last year, though, Aguilar said the project hinged on Congress passing a bipartisan infrastructure spending bill. Congress ended up passing a $1.2 trillion spending package. He said that the project would be entirely privately funded because Texas Central would not seek federal grants or tax money. Instead, he said the company would pursue low-interest, long-term loans created by the law.
Beckham accused Aguilar of lying repeatedly and said he hopes that if the project gets new life in the future, the backers will offer honesty and transparency from the beginning of the process.
Michael Heidler, a partner at Vinson & Elkins who represents Texas Central, said Aguilar's departure does not have any effect on the pending appeal in the Texas Supreme Court.
"It should not impact the timing of the court’s decision or the court’s ruling," he said.