Fort Worth-Plano commuter rail line talk may be on again

Posted Monday, Apr. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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As recently as March 5, the Fort Worth City Council seemed certain about which way to go on a proposed public-private partnership to develop commuter rail service on the Cotton Belt corridor from southwest Fort Worth all the way to Plano.

"We're out," Councilman Jungus Jordan, the council's go-to man on transportation issues, said in reflecting on that day's 6-2 vote against taking a role in the partnership. "I don't see us doing a U-turn."

Now, it looks like attitudes may have changed -- not a U-turn, but a turn nonetheless.

Jordan says he's talked with transportation officials from the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the primary advocates of the public-private plan, and has placed a new resolution on today's council agenda.

The resolution says that, so long as certain conditions are met, the council will still consider a public-private plan. A private group told NCTCOG last year that it was interested in building the 62-mile commuter line and then collecting revenue from special taxes on real estate developments near stops along the line, but no specific plan has been put forward publicly.

City officials and leaders of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority have worked since 2005 to build TEX Rail, a 37-mile commuter service mostly on that same Cotton Belt line but running only between the city's southwestern neighborhoods and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

Conditions expressed in today's resolution include:

There must be separate agreements on the two segments of the line, one from Fort Worth to the airport and the other from the airport to Plano.

Any agreement on the Fort Worth portion must help get service to the airport opened by 2016.

Federal grants awarded to the TEX Rail project must be used exclusively on TEX Rail.

At least two bills in the current legislative session would aid a public-private Cotton Belt venture. Jordan says the resolution will make it clear that the council doesn't endorse either of them and doesn't believe any legislation is necessary.

"Until we know what any proposal says, why are we messing with trying to change any laws?" Jordan asked.

And that's still the key problem: no specific proposal yet. If the private group intends to submit one, soon would be good.

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