News came from Washington this week that TEX Rail, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority’s prescient commuter rail system, is the lucky recipient of some much-needed seed money from the federal government.
President Obama’s FY 2015 budget, released on Wednesday, proposes $90.9 billion for the U.S Department of Transportation, including $578 million for the Federal Transit Administration’s recommended New Starts projects.
TEX Rail is one of those. Its share of the federal pot is $50 million.
That sizable sum is still only a fraction of the $810 million the T estimates it needs to complete the 27-mile route that would connect downtown Fort Worth with Grapevine and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
The T had actually requested $405 million from the government, half of the project’s total cost, which is the maximum amount the government would match under new policies. TEX Rail is responsible for the other half.
But additional federal dollars are still possible if not likely, pending the federal “record of decision” that the T is awaiting on the environmental impact study already completed.
Star-Telegram transportation writer Gordon Dickson has reported that deputy federal transit administrator Therese McMillan expressed confidence that TEX Rail and similarly situated projects in other states are on track to receive full federal funding in the near term.
And TEX Rail officer-in-charge Rob Harmon told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board that “TEX Rail is in a very good position to get the funding.” He noted that this is the first time that TEX Rail has been identified as a priority project by the FTA.
However, the current $50 million in play is but part of the funding recommended by the FTA.
Only Congress can to appropriate funds, and there is no guarantee that the total request made in the president’s budget will be granted by lawmakers prone to wrangling over spending.
But Harmon seems certain that the full-funding grant agreement will come to fruition, if not in 2015 then shortly thereafter.
At the very least, Wednesday’s news signals a faithful commitment by the DOT and the T to support the rail project in the future.
After years of delays and setbacks, the reality of more commuter rail in Fort Worth may be the light at the end of the tunnel.