Your Commute

He got Fort Worth’s TEXRail commuter line to DFW Airport built. Now he’s moving on

Paul Ballard, Trinity Metro president and CEO.
Paul Ballard, Trinity Metro president and CEO. Photo courtesy of Trinity Metro

Paul Ballard came to Fort Worth nearly five years ago, with an almost-singular mission of getting the long-delayed TEXRail commuter train project back on track.

Now, the rail line is poised to begin service Jan. 5 from downtown Fort Worth to Grapevine and DFW Airport.

And Ballard, chief executive of Trinity Metro, the transit agency overseeing the $1 billion project, is leaving.

Ballard told his staff Thursday that he will step down as president and CEO of Trinity Metro (formerly the Fort Worth Transportation Authority) when his five-year contract ends April 14.

“There would be no TEXRail without Paul,” Trinity Metro board chairman Scott Mahaffey said in a phone interview. Mahaffey said Ballard’s departure is considered a retirement, although Ballard has expressed an interest in continuing to work in the public transportation realm as a consultant.

Mahaffey said it was an amicable parting of ways, and the board was happy with Ballard’s performance.

Ballard, who has grown children and grandchildren in North Carolina, said in a phone interview that he plans to take some time off to consider his options, but he intends to stay active in transit issues possibly as a consultant. He didn’t rule out the possibility he would maintain a residence in Fort Worth for some of that consulting work.

Trinity Metro officials are eager to build upon the success of TEXRail, and possibly revisit a proposal to extend the commuter line south of downtown Fort Worth to the city’s medical district and beyond.

“I think we have made a lot of progress, and we have a good team in place,” Ballard said in a phone interview. “We have completed what we set out to do. I’m ready to tackle some other things. I’d like to do something a little different, maybe more consulting and advisory services.”

Ballard arrived in April 2014 from Nashville, where he helped initiate the Music City Star commuter rail line in Middle Tennessee. In all, he has 46 years of experience in managing transit systems.

About a year before Ballard was hired, the Fort Worth City Council had removed all eight of its Trinity Metro (then called Fort Worth Transportation Authority, or the T) board members, and Tarrant County had replaced the board’s ninth member. At the time, Mayor Betsy Price called on the new board to hire new executive leadership to get the TEXRail project through what she called “a critical crossroads.”

Stadler Train Testing .jpg
TEXRail cars on a test run earlier this year in North Richland Hills. Ken Fitzgerald Trinity Metro

In addition to getting TEXRail built on time and within budget — assuming all continues to go well leading up to the Jan. 5 start of service — Ballard said he is proud of many other accomplishments.

Among them are the implementation of a master plan that includes more input from neighboring cities in Tarrant County outside Fort Worth. Many of those cities have transit needs that are considered crucial to improving mobility in North Texas, but don’t pay the half-cent sales tax to Trinity Metro for full membership.

Mahaffey says the Trinity Metro board “has some candidates in mind” to replace Ballard, but wants to wait until after TEXRail is up and running before discussing them publicly.

TEXRail is on track to begin commuter train service Dec. 31 from downtown Fort Worth to Grapevine and DFW Airport. On Tuesday, Trinity Metro opened its maintenance yard.

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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.