Construction on a $1 billion rail project is about to get underway in North Texas. TEX Rail will link Fort Worth with DFW International, giving Tarrant County a direct route to the airport.
A tale of two cities
If you want to use public transit to get from Dallas to DFW Airport, all you have to do is hop on DART light-rail, and a train will take you all the way from Big D to Terminal A.
To get to DFW from Fort Worth on transit is more complicated. Much more complicated.
You can start at the T&P Station just south of downtown. That’s where you hop on the Trinity Rail Express, which gets you to a station about five miles south of the airport. From there, you’ve got to hop on a bus, which takes you to a remote parking lot. There, you’ve got to wait for another bus and that one will take you to your terminal.
It’s not the worst trip – it took about an hour and 15 minutes on a recent Saturday. Heading back took about 20 minutes longer.
Bob Baulsir beamed when he was asked if TEX Rail will be much better.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said.
Baulsir is vice president for rail and procurement at the Fort Worth Transit Authority. The T, as the authority is called, is in charge of the 27-mile TEX Rail project. It’ll start in Fort Worth, stop in North Richland Hills and Grapevine, and end at DFW Airport. The whole trip will take about 52 minutes, he said.
“The great thing about trains is they’re not affected by traffic or weather or any of that stuff,” Baulsir said.
The train is scheduled to be up and running by the end of 2018.
TEX Rail will run on the old Cotton Belt line. It’ll take about two years to build new tracks, new stations and new crossings. And it’ll cost more than $1 billion. About half the money is coming from local funds, the rest from the feds.
Rail will help economic development, advocates say
The T is predicting 8,000 riders a day. Baulsir said the commuter line will help employees get to employers in the Mid-Cities suburbs, and spur economic development along its route. Developments are already being planned around stations in North Richland Hills and Grapevine.
Still, not everyone’s on board. There’s been opposition from folks skeptical of spending big on mass transit rather than using the funds to pay for more roads. The T’s Baulsir is convinced the state-of-the-art Swiss-designed trains will win them over.
“Once they see the product that we’re going to put out there and the level of service, I’d be surprised if they didn’t have a change of heart and say hey now, maybe we ought to be doing this,” Baulsir said.
North Texas is expected to add more than 3 million people by 2035. For transit advocates like Jeff Davis of the North Texas Transit Coalition, TEX Rail should just be the first step in a much larger, fully integrated transit system in Tarrant County.
“It’s imperative that we do something to get people off the road, you get cleaner air, so there’s a great demand for transit in Texas,” Davis said.
'You can't just keep building roads'
Dallas has been building out DART for years. Ninety miles of light rail line now connect from South Dallas to Carrollton Plano and Rowlett. Fort Worth, by comparison, spends very little on transit.
“You just can’t keep building roads, and on the west side of the Metroplex, there just hasn’t been that political will to embrace transit,” Davis said.
Christopher Reels was recently in a DFW parking lot where he was waiting for the bus to get to the terminal. Reels knows a lot about mass transit because works at the airport, and he doesn’t have a car.
“Depends on the timing of what time the transit comes," Reels said. "It probably takes me an hour from bus to train to bus to bus. But if the timing is not right, we’re looking at two hours to two hours and a half."
He hadn’t heard of TEX Rail, but he looks forward to using it.
“I would like it if they just had one route, if I had to just take one specific train or bus that’ll take me directly to the DFW Airport, that’d be nice and convenient for me,” Reels said. “That’d be lovely, actually.”
Correction: The radio version of this story, and an earlier online version, said that DART takes passengers to DFW's Terminal B. It goes to Terminal A.