President Obama’s 2017 budget asks Congress to spend $20 billion on mass-transit rail projects nationwide—$125 million of which is slated for Tarrant County’s controversial TexRail project. Despite its proven wasteful status and increased opposition from local residents, Republican officials in North Texas continue to lobby the Obama administration for more federal pork to fund this ill-conceived boondoggle.
Local officials such as Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley are TexRail’s biggest cheerleaders.
Price has made the project a cornerstone of her tenure in office, repeatedly criticizing agency bureaucrats over project delays. Whitley defended the alleged merits of $15 billion in proposed rail expansion during a public debate with TexRail opponent, Colleyville Councilman Chris Putnam. Following the debate, the audience overwhelmingly voted to oppose TexRail, joining opposition first publicized by the Tarrant County Republicans Party’s 2014 resolution.
Putnam is credited with helping to expose TexRail’s glaring problems, although other cities have opted out of new train stations due to its poor outlook.
State Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) recently penned an op-ed questioning TexRail’s legitimacy by citing the government’s own data, while also highlighting the fact it’s not been fully funded. Of the $1 billion in federal, state, and local tax dollars slated for the line’s initial construction cost, only half has been secured.
The Dallas Morning News misled its readers when it claimed TexRail would help area-commuters “avoid traffic” woes. According to the government’s own environmental impact study, the new line will have “negligible effects on traffic patterns and volumes.” In fact, the study says increased usage along the cotton-belt corridor could make road traffic worse as commuters wait for trains to pass.
The same study also showed no positive environmental impact, as the line will use diesel-powered trains. In light of these facts, even TexRail’s strongest advocates admit the train is more about “economic development” than relieving nearby roadway congestion.
A spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority claims the rail line is in response to “the tremendous growth” in Tarrant County. But the “T’s” own rail ridership numbers discredit that talking point. Over the last five years, while Tarrant County’s population grew 7.5%, the T’s ridership numbers actually declined by 20%.
Not only are fewer people riding trains, some argue the agency could better serve the needs of residents by expanding bus service or other alternatives.
For years, state legislators have told North Texans that toll road proliferation was necessary due to an alleged “lack of funding” for roads. But the truth is that regional officials don’t want to expand roads, and plan to divert billions of tax dollars to non-road projects that either don’t reduce traffic congestion, or in the case of TexRail, may actually make it worse.
Although Republican officials often resort to campaign criticism of Obama’s big-spending agenda, many of these same politicians appear eager to enable more transportation waste, so long as it’s wasted in their community.
Tarrant County residents are left wondering why state and local officials are joining the Obama administration in wasting over $1 billion from every level of government on a project the transit agency’s own data says doesn’t work.
In response, hundreds of residents have already signed a petition asking local officials to remove TexRail from the Regional Transportation Council’s 2040 funding plan.
Our Metroplex Bureau will print and hand-deliver copies of signed letters to the relevant officials.