August 4 , 2017 – TRA Newswire –

Texas Rail Advocates has learned that an innovative funding approach may be available for completion of the Cotton Belt cross-region East-West passenger rail line that has been on the drawing board since the 1980’s.

“By allowing a private entity to bring their capital to the table and build the Cotton Belt not only speeds up delivery of rail service to the suburbs, it creates connectivity with other light rail lines and gives citizens a direct path across Dallas, Denton and Collin counties to DFW Airport and Fort Worth,” according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. “We have been told that a private entity wants to build this rail line and can do it now, faster, better and offer more service than proposals using public funding. This could become the model for other rail projects to connect our rapidly growing region.”

The North Central Council of Governments will provide a forum to discuss innovative rail funding solutions on August 17th in Arlington. The main topic at the August public meeting in Arlington will be the Cotton Belt Regional Passenger Rail Update. According to the COG website “transit recommendations from the Mobility 2035 transportation plan for the North Central Texas region include regional rail service from southwest Fort Worth to Plano. NCTCOG staff will provide background information on the Cotton Belt passenger rail segment that will extend from the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport to Plano as well as an overview of the innovative financing process essential to the prompt delivery of the project.”

The North Central Texas Council of Government meeting will be held Thursday August 17 at 2:30pm at COG offices located at 616 Six Flags Drive, Arlington Texas 76011.

The Texas Rail Advocates Board of Directors approved a resolution in support of innovative funding solutions for the Cotton Belt project at its meeting Wednesday.

“There are a lot of moving pieces on the Cotton Belt right now” according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody, “and one of the impediments to getting investment to build the rail line has been the lack of public funding. It’s been over three decades and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has not been able to construct the line. It’s time for them to step aside and let private enterprise complete the project. It’s time to flush out an innovative approach that has been circulated to several of our TRA board members from reliable sources. Now is the time for every citizen, public interest group, business and industry interested in development of the Cotton Belt to speak up at the August 17th public meeting.”

The Cotton Belt rail line would complete the gap between Fort Worth’s own TEXRail project being built between downtown Fort Worth and DFW International Airport. It would connect the airport eastward through Coppell, Carrollton, Addison, North Dallas and into Richardson and Plano.

The Dallas City Council recently created a firestorm recently by replacing members to the DART board that supported the Cotton Belt line. Council members were upset that DART officials wanted to pursue both the Cotton Belt and a second downtown light rail line project at the same time. That created a negative response from suburbs that had been promised rail service and had been paying into the DART service district with a 1% sales tax levy for 30+ years.

During TRA board discussions Wednesday it was noted that the region has benefited greatly by the public private partnership that utilized an innovative approach to build the LBJ-635 project. Board members said that now is the time for the region to utilize a similar innovative approach for regional rail projects. The Cotton Belt would connect with DART’s red, green and orange line as well as DCTA’s “A Train” to Denton and with the Fort Worth TEXRail line at DFW Airport.

An innovative funding approach proposal being circulated would build the Cotton Belt Express as a dual track line, utilize the latest clean and quiet vehicle technology, provide service with 20-minute headways between Shiloh Road in Plano and DFW Airport and incorporate more mitigation measures than DART, by policy, would do. “And a private consortium is willing to put their capital at risk to complete the project,” LeCody said. “What’s there not to like about this?”