Monday, June 03, 2002

TTC could aid military?

Corridor could aid military

June 3, 2002

Gordon Dickson Staff Writer
Fort Worth Star-Telegram Copyright 2002

The military may be an interesting player in the debate over whether to go forward with Gov. Rick Perry's plan for a Trans Texas Corridor .

The plan - details will be presented later this summer - calls for the construction of $175 billion in toll roads, rails and utility lines crisscrossing the state.

At last week's Texas Transportation Commission meeting in Austin, Fort Hood garrison commander Col. William Perry (no relation to the governor) said that better roads leading from the Central Texas post to the coast could help the Army's readiness.

If a large-scale deployment were needed from Ford Hood, the Army would probably use rails and highways to get equipment to Beaumont and Corpus Christi, he said.

"The ability to deploy quickly and get our equipment to the ports is a priority of the Army and Fort Hood," Perry told the commission.

Perry was in Austin to speak in support of a proposed U.S. 190 relief route around the Central Texas city of Copperas Cove. After that discussion, Commissioner Ric Williamson of Weatherford asked for Perry's thoughts about the high-speed corridor proposal.

Not far from where Tarrant County meets Dallas County, a giant park-and-ride lot at the CentrePort-DFW Airport Station is often overflowing with cars. Trinity Railway Express passengers sometimes have to park creatively - in fire lanes, for example - to board the train.

On both sides of the Metroplex, rail ridership is far ahead of projections. Clearly, trains are a preferred form of mass transportation for a segment of the population.

But how many people?

The latest Census Bureau figures show that, despite several billion dollars of investments in trains, buses and high-occupancy vehicle lanes, only a fraction of the Metroplex work force uses mass transportation.

In Dallas, where the light rail has been operating since 1996, 5.5 percent of working-age residents use public transportation. In Fort Worth, the figure is 1.5 percent. In Arlington, where voters recently rejected a sales tax increase for mass transit, the figure is less than 1 percent.

Such data provide fodder for some watchdog groups that for years have argued that establishing rail lines for urban commuters is not worth the expense because of the relatively low number of people served.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit has spent about $1.8 billion on light rail alone in the past decade, spokesman Morgan Lyons said.

But Lyons has a message for those who don't favor the rail services: Imagine how bad traffic would be on the already-crowded highways if the 206,000 people who use DART daily were driving instead.

"We used to think highways would be the key, but you really can't build your way out of this congestion," Lyons said. "The DART system is multimodal. We talk about having a toolbox with a lot of tools. You've got to have HOV lanes, buses, rail, light rail, van programs, areas with Rideshare programs. All of those tools are really essential for a region."

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