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High speed rail vote: Don’t let the train leave without Fort Worth


The region’s transportation planning group is on the verge of taking a vote which will determine whether Fort Worth becomes a central player in the development of high speed rail.

Our message to Regional Transportation Council members voting Thursday: jump aboard. This train shouldn’t leave the station without Fort Worth as a primary stop.

The vote by the RTC — which approves much of the transportation spending for this 16-county North Texas region — is to spend a half million dollars for studying a possible rail line connecting Fort Worth to Laredo and ultimately Monterrey, Mexico.

The RTC will approve a $300,00 federal grant. The RTC will also direct its parent organization, the North Texas Council of Governments, to seek another $200,000 from metropolitan transportation agencies along the Interstate 35 corridor.

This may sound like another pie-in-the-sky spending spree by a government agency that wants to keep a cool but never-to-be-completed project moving down the track.

Well, building massive transportation projects takes time and money. This study puts Fort Worth in a better position to part of a statewide high speed rail network.

It is a plan that dares to dream big, and there’s reason for doing that.

Right now, most of the attention is focused on the high speed rail line between Dallas and Houston being built by the Texas Central Railway, primarily with private money. That project has reportedly secured billions of dollars in funding and selected station locations in Houston and Dallas. Developers hope to begin construction as soon as 2019.

The momentum in developing the Dallas-to-Houston line has spurred the rest of the state to step up planning for high speed rail.

If the RTC approves money for this study, experts will spend about a year examining an alignment that flows south from Fort Worth, along Interstate 35. It would extend through Waco, Temple-Killeen, Austin, San Antonio, and Laredo and continue on to Monterrey.

North Texas planners became worried after an earlier Texas Department of Transportation study said high speed rail was a good idea but suggested the train not run south out of Fort Worth's Intermodal Transportation Center as the Council of Governments prefers. Instead, the state suggested high speed rail run south from Arlington along Texas Highway 360, following an alignment following Interstate 35E instead of than Interstate 35W.

While $500,000 may seem like a lot of money for a project we've been talking about for decades, it’s just a drop in the bucket when you consider our North Texas communities will be developing a whole new transportation industry in our state.

Fort Worth’s Bill Meadows, chairman of the state’s Commission for High-Speed Rail in the Dallas/Fort Worth Region, is already talking to international railway firms about building the Fort Worth to Laredo link. He called the RTC vote an opportunity to make Fort Worth "a player" in the state's transportation future.

Let's punch our ticket for that future. And dare to dream big.

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