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RAIL EMPLOYMENT & NOTICES



Rail News Home Passenger Rail

June 2012



Rail News: Passenger Rail

TEX Rail is on track for DFW Airport, says The T's Ruddell



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By Julie Sneider, Assistant Editor

Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) President Dick Ruddell can hardly contain his Texas-sized enthusiasm when he talks about the TEX Rail project and the progress that’s been made to date toward building a 37-mile commuter-rail line across Tarrant County in North Texas.

“I love talking about TEX Rail,” said Ruddell, as he sat down for a recent interview with ProgressiveRailroading.com during the American Public Transportation Association’s 2012 Rail Conference in Dallas.

Formerly known as the Southwest-to-Northeast Rail Corridor, TEX Rail (short for Tarrant Express) is proposed to stretch from southwest Fort Worth, through the downtown area, on to Grapevine and into the north end of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

In March, the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) gave the go-ahead for preliminary engineering and design work to begin. The FTA’s blessing was crucial because it put the project into the pipeline for possible federal funding of up to 50 percent of the project’s $758 million price tag. The agency gave the project a “medium-high” rating on the criteria for federal New Starts funding.
 
In addition, TEX Rail planners recently updated TEX Rail’s daily ridership projections to take into consideration more recent demographic and other trends: The rail service’s daily ridership is now projected to be 18,100 riders daily by 2035, up from an earlier estimate of 16,500, said Ruddell.

“The demographics are working in our favor,” he said. “Our area is growing fast.”

That’s an understatement. North Texas is one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions: Population is projected to jump from the current 6.7 million to about 10 million by 2035. Those additional people will exacerbate the region’s existing traffic congestion issues — all the more reason community planners and elected officials are pursuing additional commuter-rail and transit options to alleviate traffic pressure on the expanding highway system.

Among those options is TEX Rail, which can’t be built fast enough for many folks and elected officials in Fort Worth, including Mayor Betsy Price. Construction is slated to begin in 2014, and The T officials are targeting 2016 for the start of service. By the time it’s fully open in 2035, TEX Rail will have 14 rail stations and operate over 37 miles.

Since the FTA announcement in March, the project has advanced on a number of levels, according to Ruddell. First, two “open house” meetings were held earlier this month to gather public opinion on a change in location for two of the 14 station locations: One is now being eyed for the city’s Medical District area around Baylor All Saints Medical Center, and the other — the North Side Station — is proposed for a site in the Diamond Hill neighborhood.

On June 20, The T’s board unanimously OK’d the Medical District Station to be moved from the originally proposed site at 12th Avenue and Rosendale to Mistletoe Boulevard. The change puts the station within closer walking distance for patients and employees on their way to medical facilities.

“As one of Fort Worth’s largest employment generators, the Medical District is projected to be one of TEX Rail’s busiest destination stations,” Ruddell said in a prepared statement following the board’s action.

The board also will vote soon on the new North Side Station location. A public hearing on the proposed Diamond Hill site was held June 13.

Changing station locations to accommodate public opinion isn’t an uncommon step, as the commuter-rail project continues to evolve and new information arises about station locations during the preliminary design phase, Ruddell said. He believes that changing the two station locations should not delay the project’s progress; the board has to give final approval to TEX Rail’s station locations and complete the preliminary engineering phase by next year if it wants to qualify for federal New Starts funding.

Also in recent weeks, the authority has made progress with its access agreement negotiations with Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Union Pacific Railroad so that TEX Rail trains can operate over those railroads’ tracks. Since early June, The T and DART officials have reached agreement over some of the “deal points,” and a basic agreement on deal points has been reached between The T and UP staff, Ruddell says.


Keywords

Browse articles on Fort Worth Transportation Authority TEX Rail project The T commuter-rail line Tarrant County North Texas President Dick Ruddell Federal Transit Authority American Public Transportation Association’s 2012 Rail Conference Dallas Area Rapid Transit

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