Wednesday, May 02, 2007

AllianceTexas of Fort Worth could get 'inland-port' designation under a bill in the Legislature

Even without water, this may soon be a port

Designation would let Alliance levy taxes for infrastructure


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2007

FORT WORTH - AllianceTexas could soon be an inland port, drawing countless international shipments and new dollars for improvements, under a state plan that drew endorsements Tuesday from local leaders. Under a bill in the Texas Senate, city and county leaders would work together to create the ports, define property to be included in them and create governing boards to levy taxes for infrastructure and security improvements.

"Establishing a port authority will allow Alliance to continue to compete," said David Pelletier, director of communications for Hillwood, the company owned by Ross Perot Jr. that is developing the 17,000-acre AllianceTexas. "There's a lot of states looking to establish inland ports because it's about economic development."

The push for the legislation comes soon after the unveiling of plans to turn thousands of acres south of Dallas into a warehouse and distribution center that some say could rival Alliance.

What happened Tuesday: County and Fort Worth leaders unanimously endorsed a plan to create inland-port designations in Texas. The measure by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, also won approval in the Senate Natural Resources Committee and is headed to the full Senate for debate.

Where an inland port could go: The bill says a port could be established in an area with a municipally owned airport, a Class 1 railroad and a priority corridor highway. In Fort Worth, those are Alliance Airport, BNSF Railway and Interstate 35W. The bill would allow inland ports across the state.

What an inland port would do: Much like a Public Improvement District, the authority would tax itself and use that revenue for improvements such as roads, runways, security measures or customs.

How much this could generate and what for: Pelletier said there are no estimates on how much money could be generated by the inland-port designation. But it would help Alliance move forward with infrastructure improvements.

Why this is needed: "Establishing an inland-port authority will strengthen Alliance's position as a major international trade corridor," said Nelson, whose district includes Alliance. "Goods from all over the world are clearing customs right here in our back yard, so it is vital that there be resources available for security, infrastructure and continued growth."

What local officials are saying: Assistant City Manager Joe Paniagua said the city's staff supports the concept of an inland port but has some concerns. They include whether the port authority's board would be subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act and whether the port authority could buy land and build facilities that would be tax-exempt.

Staff writer Mike Lee contributed to this report.

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

AllianceTexas, which covers 17,000 acres in far north Fort Worth, could get an inland-port designation under a bill in the Legislature. Alliance Airport, BNSF Railway and Interstate 35W provide the transportation for the development's distribution centers.

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