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The Fort Worth Transportation Authority unvieled the results of a long-term strategic paln on Thursday that prioritized dozens of projects. The plan has a regional focus, but officials with the T will have to work to get other cities to join the system to help pay for the costs through a half-cent sales tax.

The regional focus shows that T officials are trying to transform their organization into a regional transit agency, rather than an entity that mostly serves Fort Worth.

For example, one proposal highly touted in Fort Worth was a circulator, a trolley-like system linking destinations in and around the downtown area. But the circulator won't be built for 11 to 25 years, according to the plan, in favor of more regional projects.

Other projects include an express commuter rail line between downtown Fort Worth and downtown Dallas within four to ten years. The ride would take 44 minutes opposed to the 69-71 minutes it takes the TRE.

A commuter rail line from Fort Worth to DFW Airport within the next three years. They would negotiate to use an existing rail line, most likely the Cotton Belt line.

More long term projects inclue a high-speed rail line between Fort Worth and Austin as well as bus only ramps on freeways.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Transit agency unviels top regional priorities

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Another recent article comparing the T to DART's regional system. Right now, DART has 13 member cities while the T only has 3 (Fort Worth, Richland Hills, and Blue Mound).

Fort Worth's approach has a separate variable. It has invested in commuter rail, rather than light rail. The system is significantly less expensive, which is good, considering that the T's sales tax rate is half of DART's -- and its budget is one-seventh the size.

But commuter rail also tends to spawn less development around its stations. It typically shares rails with freight trains, offers less frequent service and puts stations in more industrial-type areas. That makes it less attractive as a destination.

"But that's starting to change," says Dick Ruddell, president and executive director of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, known as the T.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: A new argument for mass transit

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A new plan is coming together to use the old Cotton Belt rail line as a commuter rail route.

Here's the plan, roughly: The line will be extended to 40 miles at a cost of about $300 million. The southernmost stop would be near Texas Christian University at Berry Street in Fort Worth, with other Fort Worth stops in the medical district, in downtown, in the Stockyards and near Interstate 35W north of 28th Street. There would also be stops in Colleyville and Grapevine. From there, the line would go to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and connect with a future DART rail line.

The city of Grapevine will be voting this fall on a 3/8 of a cent sales tax that will add $7-$8 million per year for the rail project. Other funding could come from a recent county bond package taht could add $25 million and $60 million that could come from the North Texas Council of Governments. If funding can be lined up, the Cotton Belt commuter rail line could be running in four or five years.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Rail plan may keep Arlington out of the loop

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I'm considering a move to either Texas or Colorado and I'm finding that I like the Fort Worth area (Keller) due to its proximity to one of my company's offices (Irving) and also to DFW. One thing that ranks high in importance to me is mass transit, so I'm curious: Has there been any discussion on implementing a network of light rail in the Fort Worth area similar to what DART has done in Dallas? Likewise, has there been any discussion on any proposed rail line from Fort Worth up into Keller / Texas Motor Speedway area?

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This is news to me. I really didn't know Fort Worth didn't have commuter rail service. I guess I just never noticed, and I suppose I assumed Fort Worth was on the DART system. My time in Fort Worth has been limited, though, as I typically stay either in Arlington or north of Dallas when I'm in that area.

So Texas had that big of an impact on you, huh? When you said you could see yourself living there, I figured you were just "talking."

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Has there been any discussion on implementing a network of light rail in the Fort Worth area similar to what DART has done in Dallas? Likewise, has there been any discussion on any proposed rail line from Fort Worth up into Keller / Texas Motor Speedway area?

There is talk about running a short modern streetcar line. It's been awhile since I updated myself on the status of that. But, essentially, nothing much happening yet.

Commuter rail is where it is happening in Tarrant Co.

A commuter rail line (for events only or maybe full-time) is in the long-range plans for a downtown to TMS run. Another line starting in downtown and running to the northside of DFWIA (cutting through the NE Tarrant mid-cities) is planned. Also, continuing the existing TRE line further into southwest FW is planned.

DCTA is going to have a commuter rail line from Denton to Carrollton. It would be good to see a branch of that DCTA line go over and meet up with DART LRT, DFWIA SkyLink, and the FWTA commuter rail at the northside of DFWIA.

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The residents of Grapevine will vote in November on a new sales tax to join the T, city officials feel that it should pass easily. If it is approved, a 40-mile long commuter rail line could be running in just 5-6 years on the old Cotton Belt freight line. The quick turn around is cited as one of the reasons that it is a good deal for Grapevine. Also, it would cost much less to join the T (3/8 cent) rather than DART (1 cent), which would add up to about a 3 million/year savings. The tax would still raise $7 million/year which would be a huge portion of the $12 million/year operating budget for the commuter rail line. If the new tax does pass, officials with the T feel that other cities along the line, such as Haltom City, North Richland Hills and Colleyville, would quick join the system.

So why the rush? The region needs help with traffic congestion and air pollution, two problems that are getting worse. But Grapevine also needs a strong incentive to win over elected officials and residents -- and getting rail service in a hurry is an important lure.

Grapevine merits special consideration because it generates lots of sales tax and attracts a huge influx of service workers, making it an ideal candidate for mass transit. But atop the list of reasons for Grapevine's appeal is its strategic location: next to Dallas and Denton counties and just north of D/FW Airport, Grapevine is the linchpin in a seamless rail network that aims to serve much of North Texas.

Grapevine is poised to capitalize on it. The city has a train station in its historic downtown area, and it wants to convert that into an architectural gem if the referendum passes.

Housing in the area is being improved and redeveloped already, and a rail stop would add to that pace.

To the east, another station would probably be built where hundreds of commuters could park. That area could also be converted into a mixed-use development that would add to Grapevine's population and tax base.

On economic potential alone, this is a slam-dunk for Grapevine.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: The gold standard for rail-line plans

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The T will hold three meetings next week in Fort Worth and Grapevine to unviel recommendation for the future transit corridor stretching between SW Fort Worth and D/FW Airport.

The Transportation Authority's recommendation will come from three options identified by Tarrant County residents as the best choice for the corridor. Two of the options involve rail, and the third is for rapid bus transit along Southwest Parkway and State Highway 121.

Both rail options involve the Cotton Belt and Fort Worth Western Railroad lines, but one of the two also includes the Union Pacific tracks.

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The T announced their plans for a commuter rail line at a public meeting in Grapevine last night. The line would run from southwest Fort Worth to northern end D/FW Airport on the old Cotton Belt rail line. A spur will be built down International Drive to a stop between Terminals A & B at the airport were it would also connect to a future DART light-rail line. The new line would have atleast 11 stations and could be running by 2011 if the voters of Grapevine approve a 1/2 cent sales tax increase on Nov. 7.

The route must still be approved by the T's board of directors, which meets next month. The T would then submit the plan to the Federal Transit Administration for review. The T could begin its preliminary design and an environmental study, and apply for federal funding to cover up to half of the start-up costs.

The T considered eight options during its yearlong study. The Cotton Belt route was selected over two other final choices: a similar rail line that would have bypassed downtown Fort Worth to the west, and a bus-only plan with express routes along Airport Freeway.

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It appears from the early returns that the voters of Grapevine will approve a 1/2-cent sales tax for the proosed Cotton Belt commuter rail line. Proposition 1 had 74.2% support through the counting of 3 of the 16 precents and early voting.

The tax will be divided so that 3/8 of a cent will go to the development of the planned Cotton Belt rail line from southwest Fort Worth through downtown Fort Worth and Northeast Tarrant County to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. The remaining 1/8 of a cent will go for transit-related projects, such as a downtown station and parking garage for those using the train.

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Planning is starting at D/FW Airport for a station that will connect the T commuter rail line and the DART light-rail line. The stations would be located between Terminals A and B and would be connected by a tunnel walkway with moving sidewalks that would also lead to the terminals. It is estimated that 2,900 people a day would use the station and they could ride on both systems with a day pass costing $4.50.

The station will remain separate from Skylink, the airport's elevated train that serves people who have cleared airport security.

However, to make the rail station easier for airline passengers to use, airport officials may install common-use ticket counters near the train station, where passengers could check bags, go through security and then take Skylink to any terminal. Those plans will be sorted out in the next couple of years.

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The city of Fort Worth has decided to replace the Seventh Street Bridge with a new one that will be wider to carry a future rail transit line. The cost of the bridge will be $11 million, about $4 million more than just renovating the existing one.

The city and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority have been studying the idea of installing a network of light rail and commuter lines, or possibly trolley lines, to ease air pollution and traffic congestion. It might be 10 years or more before a transit line is installed on Seventh Street, but it would be impossible to do unless the bridge were widened, officials said.

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I'm somewhat surprised there is no mention of funding Light Rail Transit. I could easily see LRT running from Downtown over to the cultural district and up to the Stockyards and on toward Saginaw, Keller, and as well as stretching out to other areas surrounding Fort Worth.

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Aaah, Fort Worth light rail. I have been fighting this fight for a while. Fort Worthology will have a Light Rail advocacy page soon.

What a lot of people don't know is that Fort Worth DID have a light rail plan in the works. Previous mayor Kenneth Barr and the T had a light rail plan, mostly on-street, layed out, with the first phase linking the museums and 7th street developments to downtown from the Intermodal Transportation Center. It was scrapped for the current commuter rail oriented plan by Mayor Moncrief.

The details are a bit hazy, so I may be getting some of that wrong, but I think that's how it went.

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Aaah, Fort Worth light rail. I have been fighting this fight for a while. Fort Worthology will have a Light Rail advocacy page soon.

What a lot of people don't know is that Fort Worth DID have a light rail plan in the works. Previous mayor Kenneth Barr and the T had a light rail plan, mostly on-street, layed out, with the first phase linking the museums and 7th street developments to downtown from the Intermodal Transportation Center. It was scrapped for the current commuter rail oriented plan by Mayor Moncrief.

The details are a bit hazy, so I may be getting some of that wrong, but I think that's how it went.

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