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Lucy Puniwai's Blog

By Lucy Puniwai | Agent in 76177

Fort Worth Realtor - Rail Expansion to Airport

A. Lee Graham

Preliminary engineering and property acquisition continue for TEX Rail as planning for the hotly anticipated commuter rail project takes shape.

Officials received a progress report at the Oct. 3 meeting of the Passenger Rail Working Group, a recently formed committee promoting transportation alternatives.

“We just passed the 15 percent mark,” said Rob Harmon, TEX Rail program manager with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, or The T, referring to preliminary engineering.

The 37-mile commuter rail is planned to run from southwest Fort Worth to Grapevine and the north end of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Having received interest from six contractors, officials planning the project are expected to narrow the number down in the next few weeks before making a final 

As for securing access agreements from property owners along the corridor, Harmon reported progress. “We’re making good progress on some of those,” he said, referring to owners of existing railroads that would allow TEX Rail operation within their rights of way.

Officials have applied for $415 million in federal funding for the $960 million project. The original $758 million estimate rose recently due to finance charges, among other factors, according to a T news release.

Planners continue to work with the Federal Transit Administration, which gave the project a “medium-high” rating.

“It doesn’t sound like a very good rating, but it is the highest rating,” Harmon said. “This is a competitive process, so it’s very important that we maintain this very high level.”

Harmon referred to transportation projects in other parts of the country also vying for a piece of the federal funding pie.

Another potential funding tool is the Cotton Belt Corridor Innovative Finance Initiative, through which the North Central Texas Council of Governments and Regional Transportation Council investigate other potential funding sources.

“We’ll continue to pursue the new-starts program for funding,” said rail group and T board member Gary Cumbie, referring to the Federal Transit Administration funding resource. “But if it appears the Innovative Finance Initiative provides a better, faster way to get where we’re going, we can pursue that.”

Emphasizing the regional approach was Fort Worth District 6 Councilman Jungus Jordan, chairman of the passenger rail group.

“The T and other agencies are working in coordination with the RTC,” Jordan said. “This is a parallel effort.”

Officials hope to begin TEX Rail service in 2016. Station locations must be selected and preliminary engineering work completed by early 2013.

Earlier, a regional transportation leader assured residents that area interstate freeways are not being converted into toll roads. Still, he acknowledged that tolls are part of some planned managed lanes.

“The public still doesn’t know why we’re having to build toll roads and put tolls on our managed lanes,” said Dan Kessler, assistant director of transportation for the Council of Governments, speaking at the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition meeting that preceded the rail group 

The reason is simple, Kessler said: “There are no dollars available to build freeways. Freeways are no longer free.”

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