Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Five-county commuter rail urged in Dallas-Fort Worth Area

5-county commuter rail urged

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2005

ARLINGTON--Improved highways and byways, and a regional rail system are some of the strategies officials hope will make Metroplex travel easier, a League of Women Voters-Arlington meeting was told Monday evening.

There is a "definite" proposal for commuter rail through Arlington to link downtown Fort Worth and Dallas, said Councilman Steve McCollum at the League meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church,

The rail service on the Union Pacific right of way is part of the Mobility 2025's proposed regional rail system. That plan is a combination of policies, programs and projects developed by the Regional Transportation Council, an arm of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

McCollum, a city representative to the transportation council, detailed the plan and the state's proposed north-south Trans -Texas Corridor that could route rail freight and truck traffic around the Metroplex.

The regional rail system could be paid for through an increase in sales taxes, motor-fuel taxes or other fees, officials have said. That could mean raising the sales tax by a half-cent in all of Tarrant, Johnson and Ellis counties, as well as in areas of Dallas and Collin counties that are not members of Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Transportation officials want state approval for a five-county referendum on commuter rail, even if the Legislature does not approve a boost in the maximum allowed sales tax rate from 8.25 cents 8.75 cents, needed because many cities are at the cap.

"This is the most important transportation question put to the Metroplex," McCollum said,

Barbara Prabhu, league co-president, said "there are a lot of ifs" and costly proposals. "The public needs to know more about what is being proposed," she said.

About $45 billion could be spent on the 2025 plan, including about $14 billion to maintain roads; $11.9 billion for new freeways and toll roads; $8.8 billion for trains, buses and other transit; $5.8 billion to improve roads within cities, $1.4 billion for special vehicle lanes and nearly $1 billion in bicycle route and sidewalk improvements, officials have said.

Neil Strassman, (817) 548-5520 strass@star-telegram.com

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: www.dfw.com