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TEXRail was $90 million under budget. Should Fort Worth’s transit agency keep the money?

June 13,2019

See full Fort Worth Star-Telegram article by Gordon Dickson here.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to indicate that half of the $90 million in savings for TEXRail comes from federal money.

Trinity Metro may already have nearly all the money it needs to extend the TEXRail commuter train service two additional miles and to open an additional station at Fort Worth’s medical district, officials said.

Officials from Fort Worth’s transit agency say they completed the initial 27 miles of track from downtown Fort Worth to DFW Airport $90 million under budget.

TEXRail opened to the public in January, but until now Trinity Metro officials — still paying their final bills for the commuter rail project — hadn’t specified precisely how much money they thought they would have left over.

About half that $90 million is federal funding, said Bob Baulsir, Trinity Metro president and chief executive officer. And, he said $90 million is enough to cover about 90 percent of the cost of extending the train tracks an additional two miles, from TEXRail’s current western terminus at downtown’s T&P Station to a proposed station at Mistletoe Boulevard.

Typically, unspent federal funds would go back into a pot of money for other transit projects in cities across the U.S. Competition for these dollars is incredibly stiff, with cities often waiting years to get their hands on the money needed to build passenger rail lines.

But Baulsir and others at Trinity Metro want to keep the federal money in Fort Worth.

Baulsir is asking the North Central Texas Council of Governments to write a letter to the Federal Transit Administration supporting the proposed TEXRail extension.

“Nearly 40,000 people are drawn each day to the Fort Worth Medical District to work in the hospitals, clinics, treatment centers, and other businesses there,” Baulsir wrote in a May 30 letter to Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “That district is home to some of the finest medical facilities anywhere.”

The council of governments is the DFW region’s official planning body, and includes the Regional Transportation Council, which will hear more details about Baulsir’s request Thursday during its regular monthly meeting in Arlington.

The medical district has a $5.5 billion annual impact in Tarrant County, according to a 2014 University of North Texas study.