The Cotton Belt is Dead, at Least For Now

Categories: Transportation

CottonBeltRender.jpg
DART
In the end, it wasn't the opposition of the Fort Worth City Council that killed the Cotton Belt project, nor was it the opposition from neighbors in North Dallas. Not directly, at least. Rather, the 62-mile commuter rail that would run from Plano to Fort Worth, died a quiet death at the state legislature in Austin.

State Senator John Carona's bill to create a special taxing districtrail improvement district to fund the $2 billion-plus project never made it out of committee, effectively ending its chances of being completed as transportation planners had envisioned.

The Star-Telegram's Gordon Dickson does a thorough post-mortem on the project. The bill's death in the legislature means a still mostly mysterious group of private developers and construction interests won't be offering to help pick up the tab as was initially planned.

Former Dallas City Councilman Ron Natinsky, who's representing the consortium, told the Star-Telegram that the group is "continuing to vet our various options."

But the Cotton Belt isn't quite doornail dead, as Dickson reports.

[O]fficials say they may actually have more success building the line as two separate projects -- one for the Fort Worth area, and another for greater Dallas.

On the west side, the 37-mile portion of the Cotton Belt project connecting Fort Worth to DFW -- better known in Tarrant County as TEX Rail -- is on track to be built by 2016. On the east side, it's the remaining 25-mile portion of the Cotton Belt north and east of the airport -- extending to cities such as Coppell, Addison, Richardson and Plano -- that faces a less certain future.

"Clearly, the Cotton Belt is back to being two different projects," said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. "On the west, we'll proceed with TEX Rail, and the east side they will do the best they can."

It remains to be seen how good "the best they can" actually is. The main reason the Cotton Belt was re-imagined as a huge public-private partnership was that DART was decades from being able to fund it otherwise. DART spokesman Morgan Lyons says the agency remains optimistic.

"We'll continue evaluating options for the Cotton Belt," he wrote in an email this morning. "There is still substantial regional interest in the corridor."


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15 comments
Annabell Alvarez
Annabell Alvarez

Really? Why? I think that would be awesome. Just keep the hobos in Dallas

Kim VanHorn Distin
Kim VanHorn Distin

awwww, sad with so much of the population living above the inner circle

David Ellefsen
David Ellefsen

Well tha truly sucks....I hope they can make it work. It would be a boon to DFW!

EdD.
EdD.

Addison: paying the same rate as all the other DART cities but still no prospect of rail service before 2030? Even though it was promised to be in place more than a decade ago? Time for a renegotiation.

notmadeomoney
notmadeomoney

Think of how it would have split apart vibrant neighborhoods

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

The combo of projects looked to be particularly susceptible to cost shifting.  To the FTW crowd, it looked like the efficiencies were all on the Cotton Belt side since FTW has something ready to go.  Very touchy in the best of circumstances and the current environment is not the best.  DART has a reputation on cost shifting, albeit for the greater good, but not good for the giver.  The vague CB ownership structure raised more concerns.  Clearly a joint project would likely be at least marginally better for DFW Metroplex.  Probably more work was necessary to make sure FTW knew why it needed the Cotton Belt.

gangstead1
gangstead1

Can we still get the Cottonbelt Trail on the right of way?

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