News that the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system will begin light rail service to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport next month should be another wake-up call for Fort Worth city officials and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (also known as the T).
A rail line from the city center to one of the world’s busiest airports gives Dallas another competitive advantage over its rival city to the west in attracting more tourists and conventioneers, as well as providing an attractive transportation option for its residents needing to get to and from the airport for travel or work.
Fort Worth has struggled to link its downtown to DFW via rail, although there is a plan in the works to have train service from Cowtown to DFW and Grapevine.
Lack of money and difficulty in securing agreements with the railroads that own the tracks have delayed the proposed TEX Rail line until at least 2018, four years behind Dallas.
The new president of the T and its all-new board understand that their major priority is to make TEX Rail a reality — sooner rather than later.
The T is requesting $450 million in federal funds for the $810-million project, of which $50 million was awarded in February.
Direct transit service is just part of the puzzle in making Fort Worth a more competitive convention and visitor destination.
A consultant’s report that is to be presented to the City Council on Tuesday will point out that Fort Worth is losing convention business because of inadequate meeting space and too few hotel rooms.
The report will recommend that the city invest more in its convention center by demolishing the under-used, 46-year-old, 10,000-seat arena and replacing it with “high-quality, flexible space” that would include more exhibit halls, a second large ballroom and new meeting rooms.
The consultant says the city also needs more hotel rooms to serve the convention center.
That could include expansion of the Omni Hotel, which opened five years ago.
With one of the best downtowns in the nation, Fort Worth can attract even more visitors than the 6.5 million who came here in 2013. But it must have the infrastructure to serve them.
That means the city has to get on the ball with improving the convention center, adding more hotel rooms and completing TEX Rail.