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The T broadens its scope, vows to meet rising customer demandsAugust 28, 2013
A. Lee Graham
A surging population in and around Fort Worth has transportation planners determined to meet its growing needs.
That urgency underscored an Aug. 27 joint meeting of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority board and Fort Worth City Council, where rail service took the front seat.
“Our goals are not what they used to be,” said Scott Mahaffey, chairman of The T. “We need to provide all of our citizens with an efficient, safe transportation system.”
With that in mind, Mahaffey pointed to the Alliance development in Far North Fort Worth, as well as southwest Fort Worth, as among several areas that should have better service.
“We’ve got to look at areas we haven’t been to before and getting a better way to Alliance, to southwest Fort Worth,” Mahaffey said.
“Many county areas are underserved,” acknowledged Mahaffey, vowing to change the situation. “As we see growth, we’re going to have to find ways to [meet those needs].”
Details are expected to be discussed at the September board meeting, where board member Neftali Ortiz, with the authority’s strategic planning committee, will review challenges before the board considers a possible plan of action.
Meanwhile, Mahaffey explained The T’s recent decision to focus on the TEX Rail segment from downtown to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and delay discussing the segment planned to serve the medical district and Texas Christian University.
TEX Rail is the 37-mile commuter rail planned to run from southwest Fort Worth to Grapevine and the north end of D/FW Airport. Project delays have frustrated city leaders, which led to a T Board overhaul earlier this year.
Planners hope to secure federal funding to pay for the initial phase of the project and hope to get a record of decision from the Federal Transit Administration by early 2014. That would ensure the project’s place in line when grant funding is available.
Meanwhile, the authority hopes to finalize access agreements by year’s end with Union Pacific Railroad, Fort Worth and Western Railroad and Dallas Area Rapid Transit. The road to rail would continue with the final environmental impact statements submitted to the Federal Transit Administration by the end of the year, with the engineering phase beginning in early 2014. Construction would begin in late 2015.
Mahaffey has learned the realities of project funding since being elected T Board chairman in March.
“Nothing in transportation, or I think government, moves at a very quick pace,” Mahaffey said.