A former Federal Railroad Administration official is taking the controls at the Trinity Railway Express, filling a position that has been vacant for more than a year.Tom Tulley’s hiring as the commuter rail line’s new chief operating officer was announced Monday by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority board. The agency, also known as the T, co-owns the TRE rail service with Dallas Area Rapid Transit.“If you look at his whole body of work, he’s done just about everything in the industry,” T board Chairman Scott Mahaffey said of Tulley.Tulley will oversee day-to-day operations of TRE, and also will serve as chief mechanical officer.He replaces Bill Farquhar, who left his post as TRE’s chief operating officer in January 2013 after disagreeing with superiors at the T over issues such as what kind of rail car to use on a proposed new commuter line, known as TEX Rail, that would connect downtown Fort Worth to Grapevine and the north end of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.Tulley said that although his main task is overseeing existing TRE service, he will help as needed on the T’s application for several hundred million dollars in federal funding for TEX Rail, which T officials would like to open by 2017.“I’m going to be as involved as they will allow me to be,” Tulley said during a break in Monday’s T board meeting.Tulley also will oversee the work previously done by TRE chief mechanical officer Sal DeAngelo, who was laid off in September. T officials late last year said DeAngelo’s job was consolidated with Farquhar’s job in a cost-cutting move.But DeAngelo told the Star-Telegram late last year that he believed he had been forced out after he and Farquhar raised concerns about the type of vehicle T and DART officials were insisting they use on the proposed TEX Rail line. The type of vehicle in question, known as a diesel multiple unit, has trouble maintaining an electrical connection with the railroad tracks — a process known as shunting — which is needed to activate railroad crossing signals and also to help dispatchers keep track of rail cars on their computer screens.Tulley also arrives at TRE at a time when ridership is on the decline for four consecutive years. Regional planners have said the TRE, which opened in Dallas County in 1996 and has served downtown Fort Worth since 2001, will continue to have difficulty increasing its ridership back to 2009 levels until transit agencies are able to connect it to other projects, such as TEX Rail.‘Top shelf’But Tulley said TRE, which is operated under contract by Herzog Transit Services, enjoys a terrific reputation within the industry.“From the regulatory side,” he said, “they were top shelf.”Tulley was chosen by a panel of five T and DART employees that interviewed the job finalists.Tulley worked as a passenger rail specialist for the Federal Railroad Administration Region 5 in Dallas from 1999 until 2012. He also was an FRA emergency preparedness team leader, railroad safety inspector and safety specialists for passenger railroad equipment, according to a biography provided by the T.He also previously worked as a locomotive maintenance director and senior manager for Union Pacific Railroad.In 2012, Tulley moved to California to work at North County Transit District, which is based in Oceanside, north of San Diego, and oversees multiple railroads and other transit modes in the area. There, he worked as chief of safety, regulatory compliance, risk reduction and training.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson