As state lawmakers in Austin debate measures that could kill plans for high-speed trains between downtown Dallas and Houston, the Fort Worth City Council is moving forward with plans to create a rail link to Dallas.
Fort Worth and Dallas are in the process of preparing for a 30- to 40-mile high-speed rail line between the two cities called the DFW Core Express. A $15 million environmental impact study of the possible route is expected to be completed in 2018.
On Tuesday, the Fort Worth city council considered creating a local government corporation with Dallas, an entity that would govern inter-city passenger rail service. Discussions are also focusing on including a stop in Arlington and adding that city to the corporation.
The Dallas City Council is expected to approve the local government corporation by the end of May, said Jay Chapa, Fort Worth assistant city manager. Establishing the local government corporation is being done now so the city is prepared whenever the rail line can proceed, he said.
The local government corporation would own and manage the rail line, Chapa said.
"This is a step in a long series of steps that would have to occur, but it sets up the framework for the governing entity for the creation, funding and actual construction of the line." Jay Chapa, Fort Worth assistant city manager.
“This gives us the ability to start. We need to be in position to be ready to move forward,” Chapa said. “This is a step in a long series of steps that would have to occur, but it sets up the framework for the governing entity for the creation, funding and actual construction of the line.”
Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the agency coordinating the project, said approving the local government corporation is a significant step.
"It communicates to TxDot ... that this community is interested in supporting what is a critical statewide improvement." Michael Morris, North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director.
“It communicates to TxDot … that this community is interested in supporting what is a critical statewide improvement,” Morris said. “We still have a lot of hurdles … but we remain hopeful there’s enough interest to focus on the needs of a state connecting the fourth and fifth largest communities in the country.”
The plan calls for the rail line to travel to Austin and San Antonio from Fort Worth, he said.
Mayor Betsy Price, who has aggressively advocated for the rail line, said it’s a “critical part” of Fort Worth’s future.
"We’re never going to be able to support enough concrete to accommodate all our traffic. This could be a major piece, solution for us." Betsy Price, Fort Worth mayor.
“We’re never going to be able to support enough concrete to accommodate all our traffic,” Price said. “This could be a major piece and a solution for us for transit in the future. The benefits of having high speed rail between Fort Worth and Dallas, where you could be in and out in 15 or 20 minutes, are amazing.”
The earliest a train could travel between Fort Worth and Dallas is 2023 or 2024, Chapa said.
The rail line is being proposed to run either between downtown Fort Worth and downtown Dallas down Interstate 30, or along the Trinity Railway Express corridor. Project costs haven’t been determined. The trains could travel between 70 and 125 mph, according to reports.
The $12 billion Dallas/Houston route is a 240-mile line that would transport passengers between the two cities in 90 minutes at speeds of more than 200 mph. The private project doesn’t need legislative approval.
Seven possible locations in the central business district have been considered for a station, Chapa said. That will be narrowed to two sites and revealed to the City Council in June, he said.
In downtown Dallas, the DFW Core Express would share the same station with the Dallas/Houston rail line.
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