Honkin' Mad

Cornyn, Cruz support use of federal funds to extend TEXRail commuter train

A proposal to extend TEXRail two more miles into Fort Worth’s medical district just got a boost from Texas’ two senators.

Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both Republicans, sent a letter to Jane Williams, the acting head of the Federal Transit Administration, announcing their support for the use of $40 million in federal funds to extend the commuter rail line.

The 27-mile train service, which connects downtown Fort Worth with North Richland Hills, Grapevine and DFW Airport, opened to the public in January. Officials at Trinity Metro, the Fort Worth transit agency that operates TEXRail, initially thought the project would cost a little more than $1 billion, but the project came in about $90 million under budget.

Now, Trinity Metro officials would like to take that $90 million surplus, which includes $40 million in federal transit grant funding, and extend the line about two miles to the southwest, so that the thriving medical district — where thousands of people live and work — can be served.

“Trinity Metro’s partnership with the Federal Transit Administration has made this line exceedingly successful, and I was pleased to see that the project has been delivered early and under budget,” said the letter, which was dated Tuesday and signed by both men. “I also understand that the project is significantly improving mobility benefit across the North Texas region.”

The senators noted that the original plan was to build TEXRail nearly 37 miles, reaching not only the medical district but also Texas Christian University, the I-20/Granbury Road area and into the newer developments of southwest Fort Worth. But that original plan was scaled back to the initial 27 miles from downtown Fort Worth to the north, to simplify the project and make it financially more palatable.

They also noted that the proposed extension to the medical district — which could include a new station where the Fort Worth & Western Railway tracks currently cross Mistletoe Boulevard — has already cleared a federal environmental review. As a result, the amount of red tape needed to build the extension should be minimal.

Trinity Metro officials have said they believe the law allows federal funds to be used on a TEXRail extension “as long as the completed costs are significantly below the original estimate,” according to Cornyn’s and Cruz’s letter.

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.
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