North Texas transportation officials threw a party on Dec. 31 and they weren’t celebrating the New Year. They were toasting Trinity Metro’s new 27-mile TEXRail commuter rail line that will begin service from Fort Worth to the airport on Jan. 5.
“The city deserves and will have innovative and progressive transportation,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price as the train prepared to leave from the Northside station, headed to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
“This will give us a golden opportunity to look at expanding the rail going south toward the Medical District where there are nearly [40,000] jobs.”
While the train will eventually be running from the downtown Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center, officials are awaiting federal approval for improvements that were made to a rail intersection under Spur 280 before that happens.
The Federal Railroad Administration still needs to certify the intersection for passenger train travel. The speed of that approval may be impacted by the current federal government shutdown, several officials said at the event.
At a noon luncheon celebrating the rail service, area dignitaries toasted the completion of the $1 billion project that was split evenly between federal and local funding sources. Michael Lee, a former contestant from The Voice who lives in the area, along with his band, entertained the crowd.
Until Feb. 1, passengers can ride the train for free. After that a trip will cost $2.50. TEXRail will run from downtown Fort Worth across northeast Tarrant County, through North Richland Hills and Grapevine, and into Dallas Fort Worth International Airport’s Terminal B, providing a daily commuting option for regional employees and travelers.
This line, served by nine stations, is projected to serve more than 8,000 daily riders by the end of the first year of operation. By 2035, nearly 14,000 daily riders are projected to ride TEXRail, according to transit officials.
Owned and operated by Trinity Metro, TEXRail features the FLIRT 3 (Fast Light Innovative Regional Train) built by Stadler USA. Switzerland-based Stadler manufactured the exterior of the vehicles in Hungary, and the final production and assembly were completed in Utah as part of the Buy America program.
The sleek European design of the Stadler FLIRT 3 is a new look for this region, and the model being used for TEXRail is the first of its kind in the United States.
While the line itself will be key to bringing more visitors, increasing area transit options and giving economic development officials another bragging point, it will also help spur development around the stations.
The Northside station, at 2829 Decatur Ave., near the Samuels Avenue and NE 28th Street area, comes online just as Fort Worth is looking to invest in that area to make improvements and promote economic growth.
“If we just invest $3 million in this this neighborhood, this will be the cornerstone as transit oriented development comes around it,” said Price.
In January, the Fort Worth City Council will be asked to provide $2.87 million in funding to the Northside neighborhood, designated as the 2019 target area for neighborhood improvements.
The funding comes from a half-cent allocation of the municipal property tax rate to provide capital projects, improve public safety and attract private investment in underserved neighborhoods.
In 2017, the city similarly provided $2.56 million to implement capital projects aimed specifically at improving the Stop Six neighborhood. The next year, the Ash Crescent neighborhood in southeast Fort Worth received $2.77 million for improvements.
The targeted Northside area is bounded on the south by Jacksboro Highway, on the west by Roosevelt Avenue, on the east by Ellis Avenue and on the north by Northeast 25th Street.