Officials break ground on new Fort Worth to airport commuter line

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TEX Rail officials break ground Aug. 23 on a new 27-mile rail transit line that is expected to connect the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport with the cities by late 2018.
Hayley Enoch
FORT WORTH, Texas — Three groundbreaking ceremonies in Grapevine, North Richland Hills, and Fort Worth, Texas marked Aug. 23 as the official start of construction on the Fort Worth Transportation Agency’s TEX Rail train. By December 2018 at the latest, officials expect that a 27-mile corridor will link Fort Worth’s Texas & Pacific station to Terminal B at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Grapevine.

“We’re ‘Texcited’ about TEX Rail,” Mayor Oscar Trevino of North Richland Hills said in his opening remarks. The town of approximately 63,000 will be the site of one of the nine stations constructed along the Texrail corridor. “This train opens up new options for citizens who are nervous about traveling on the highways.”

TEX Rail’s construction will revive passenger service through the corridor after almost a century of the route being exclusive to freight: The Cotton Belt, the original line’s builder, halted passenger service in the 1930s. Executives with the Fort Worth Transportation Agency say that by the end of its first year of operation, some 8,000 daily riders would take advantage of the TEX Rail service. The agency’s existing commuter train between downtown Fort Worth and Dallas Union Station, the Trinity Rail Express, currently logs over two million passengers per fiscal year.

In 2015, the agency signed a contract with Stadler Rail for the purchase of eight FLIRT3 diesel-multiple units. The articulated trains will have a capacity of up to 450 passengers each. The unit trains will offer outlets and USB ports at seats, and staff aboard the train will demonstrate some of the coaches as Amtrak-style quiet cars.
Airport CEO Sean Donohue said at the Grapevine ceremony that with approximately 60,000 people employed at the airport, up to half of TEX Rail’s rider base could be composed of people employed in serving airline customers. The agency is considering fare discount programs for participating employers, and airport managers are
allocating about $40 million for the construction of a train station at Terminal B.

“[TEX Rail] is a great enabler of a sustainable environment,” Donohue said, “Continue to focus on future stewardship of the environment as we continue to grow in the North Texas region.”

Despite shovel-turning fanfare, the rail project is drawing critics. Earlier this year, the town of Colleyville passed a resolution opposing the construction of the train, and declined to build a station within city limits. Members of the opposition group Roads Not Rails, say that TEX Rail will not achieve its projected ridership and cast doubt on the use of state and federal funds for public transportation projects.

Many were are critical of the rail agency’s decision to begin construction and sign the contract with Stadler Rail before the Federal government has delivered its share of the funding for the $996 million dollar project, but Fort Worth Transportation Agency president Paul Ballard says that in June, the agency received a Letter of No Prejudice from the Federal Transit Administration. Receiving the document is typically the last step before the allocation of funds is approved, and authorizes the agency to continue to spend locally raised funds.

With roads in the the Dallas-Fort Worth area already severely congested and the regional population posed to grow by 3 million people by 2030, most guests and speakers at the three ceremonies agreed that improved public transportation options are essential to the stability of the region.

“We got it done with grit, tenacity… and the occasional kick,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said at the final groundbreaking ceremony at the Texas & Pacific station in Fort Worth, “I am really excited to see all this happening. I could not be more thrilled.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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