Honkin' Mad

As the TEXRail opening drags on, riders ask if the federal shutdown is the real cause

Three days have now passed since Fort Worth’s TEXRail commuter train service was supposed to open to the public.

Is the federal shutdown really to blame?

On Monday, prospective TEXRail riders took to social media to criticize Trinity Metro, the local transit agency building the line, for not providing the public more information about the postponement.

A Twitter user identified as Sean Weaver, who goes by the handle @gofrogs99, said he visited the Grapevine Main Street station Monday morning expecting to ride the train but found it mostly empty.

“@TrinityMetro disappointed this morning. Tried to ride TexRail to work from Grapevine,” he wrote. “Train out of service w/o warning, parking confusing, fare machines not working. Not a way to start a new service. Glad I have a vehicle to drive.”

Another Twitter user, Kelly (@K2runs), asked for more information about whether the postponed opening of TEXRail was because of the federal shutdown, or because the trains weren’t ready for service.

“@TrinityMetro @GrapevineTXCity Please be more clear about the reason #TEXRail cannot get clearance. Is it because of the #GovernmentShutdown or is there another reason for the delay? ‘clearance to operate the entire 27-mile corridor’ sounds like something else, to me. Thank you.” she wrote.

Trinity Metro officials said they did not have any new information Monday morning about when TEXRail might open. But they did say TEXRail employees were conducting test runs of the equipment up and down the line Monday.

“We will continue testing until full service begins,” spokeswoman Laura Hanna said.

Officials from cities along the line also had limited information about the delayed opening of TEXRail, a 27-mile line designed to connect downtown Fort Worth to North Richland Hills, Grapevine and DFW Airport.

North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino said he was as surprised as anyone else about the late-Friday decision not to open TEXRail to the public on Saturday. The 5:30 p.m. Friday decision came less than 12 hours before the trains were scheduled to roll.

Trevino said he was told there were problems with multiple TEXRail crossing signals on Thursday, and that the timing was unfortunate because Federal Railroad Administration officials were in town at the time to give the final OK for TEXRail. But Trevino also said it was his understanding the signal problems were relatively minor and were fixed.

“Trinity Metro has been open with us in communicating about TEXRail,” Trevino said. “I have to believe they aren’t telling us more now (about when TEXRail will get final federal clearance) because they don’t know.”

In 2013, the type of rail cars used by TEXRail came under fire for being too light and modern for their own good.

The cars, which are manufactured by Stadler Rail of Bussnang, Switzerland, sometimes had trouble making electrical connections with the railroad tracks — something known as “shunting” in the rail industry — which could lead to incidents in which the trains disappear from dispatchers’ monitors or fail to trigger railroad crossing arms.

But officials from Stadler said the cars used for TEXRail are an improved version of their vehicle that includes more wheels and a better connection with the tracks.

“I haven’t heard anything else. I assume that if there were any major concerns, we would be aware of them,” said Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate, whose city raised its sales tax to take part in TEXRail and has a comprehensive transit-oriented development planned for the city’s historical downtown area.

Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.