Editorials

Richland Hills transit foes spew a DEBT! fantasy

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Commuters board the Trinity Railway Express train at the Richland Hills Station. The stop was built because of the city’s membership in the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
Commuters board the Trinity Railway Express train at the Richland Hills Station. The stop was built because of the city’s membership in the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. Star-Telegram

The people of Richland Hills have voted overwhelmingly — three times — to establish and retain their city’s membership in the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.

Still, some determined Richland Hills residents don’t get the message or refuse to hear it.

They want the city to end its affiliation with the authority despite its bargain cost and benefits to Richland Hills residents and businesses.

Vote No. 4 is scheduled May 7. Early voting starts Monday.

The opposition this time — as opposed to the 1992 election that approved the city’s membership (with 59 percent of the vote), the 2004 election reaffirming that membership (68 percent) and the 2010 vote that reaffirmed it again (61.7 percent) — is shaped around a single scare word: DEBT!

The claim is that Richland Hills will incur a $10 million share of transportation authority debt if it does not take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to head for the exit.

That’s a scary amount of money. But it’s sheer fantasy.

The transportation authority, which has been in operation for more than three decades, has no debt, says Paul Ballard, its president and CEO.

More than two decades of Richland Hills’ membership has not affected the city’s debt obligations.

But the public transit opponents point with alarm to the TEX Rail commuter rail line planned to run between downtown Fort Worth and the north entrance to DFW Airport — which won’t serve Richland Hills.

TEX Rail’s cost is expected to be almost $1 billion, but the lion’s share of that will come from federal, state and regional grants.

Only $214 million will come from the transportation authority sales tax collected in Fort Worth, Richland Hills and Blue Mound.

There’s no DEBT! for Richland Hills, other than to continue paying the half-cent sales tax that’s collected today.

That tax adds up to almost $1.3 million a year.

The transportation authority spends $1.2 million a year providing services to the city, plus it gives Richland Hills $160,000 a year for roads and transportation enhancements.

Do the math. The city enjoys the benefits of transit services, including a stop on the Trinity Railway Express commuter line, and comes out ahead by about $76,000 a year (that’s the opposite of DEBT!)

In the past, most residents of Richland Hills have recognized a bargain when they saw it.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends a vote for transportation authority membership in Richland Hills.

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