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Station may give downtown a boost

More than 17 years and $184 million after it was envisioned, the Trinity Railway Express will roll into downtown Fort Worth this fall.

More than just a high-speed commuter rail connecting Fort Worth to the mid-cities and Dallas, it is seen by some as the start of a new era in Fort Worth.

"This is going to change the face of Fort Worth," said Paul C. Byrne, the intermodal project manager.

Fernando Costa, the city's director of planning, says he expects a major downtown redevelopment, particularly around the new Intermodal Transportation Center at Jones and Ninth streets.

"That part of downtown is going to boom," said John Bartosiewicz, general manager of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. "The next big thing. That's us."

He said that across the country, commuter rail lines and stations have stimulated billions of dollars in redevelopment.

And short of a catastrophe, it's going to start in Fort Worth on Oct. 29.

"We're counting the days, and we're on target," Bartosiewicz said.

Some finishing touches may be left at the sprawling Intermodal Transportation Center, but the trains will roll, he said.

For the price of a fancy cup of coffee, riders will be whisked to Dallas. For $1 to $2 they can get to any of the cities along the way, including Haltom City, Richland Hills, North Richland Hills, Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Grapevine, Colleyville, Grand Prairie and Arlington.

Trains will leave about every 30 minutes during rush hours and every hour during nonpeak times.

At the center of the anticipated downtown boom is the Intermodal Transportation Center, a $14 million, 30,000-square-foot facility that brings everything together - the Trinity Railway, Amtrak, city bus service, taxi service and automobiles. Bartosiewicz said negotiations are under way to bring Greyhound bus service into the fold.

"That's what intermodal is all about," Byrne said.

The completed links, from Dallas to North Richland Hills, already attract 5,000 riders a day.

Byrne said that's expected to rise soon to 8,000. The hope is that it will ease traffic congestion and pollution.

But economic development is also part of the package.

"We think the Trinity Railway Express can provide a considerable inducement to development around the commuter rail stations," Costa said.

A major park and ride facility is being developed behind the newly renovated Texas & Pacific Station and under the new elevated Interstate 30, where motorists can park and catch the TRE for the hourlong trip to Dallas or points in between.

The ITC will have what is called "kiss and ride," where day riders will be dropped off, presumably by a loved one. The idea is to keep cars out of the downtown core.

"The T&P will be more oriented to the driver from Fort Worth who will drive to the station and park there during the day. The Intermodal Center is oriented to be more kiss and ride or where people will take some other transit to the intermodal transportation center," Costa said.

Costa said plans are being developed by the city and the Southside Development District for a 4-acre tract on Vickery Boulevard, just south of the long-term parking area.

"It could be restaurants, shops, offices. It could be residential," Costa said. "Currently, it's zoned industrial, but Fort Worth South and property owners have expressed strong support for mixed-use zoning."

Also ripe for development are several acres being used as parking lots immediately to the west of the ITC.

Costa said the residential component to development is important, and not just for the convenience of those who might live there.

He said having people living in the area generally tends to make it safer for everyone and encourages development of restaurants and shops. Places that are dormant at night, such as a warehouse district, tend to be less safe, Costa said.

"The success of downtown Fort Worth in recent years can be attributable to the fact that we have a 24-hour environment. People are living as well as working downtown," Costa said.

The original rail project was to cost about $130 million and be completed by 1999.

Bartosiewicz said changes and additions delayed the opening and increased the costs. Those included adding the ITC and having to tunnel through Fort Worth's historic Alarm Supply Building at Seventh and Grove streets rather than tear it down.

About 60 percent of the cost is is being paid with federal funds. The rest comes from county contributions and the T's sales tax.

The beginning of commuter service downtown isn't the end of the process.

Proposed additions include direct rail service to D/FW Airport terminals, which might make the Airporter bus service unnecessary, and expansions of light rail lines south through the city along the Eighth Avenue/Granbury Road corridor and north to Watauga, Keller and Colleyville.

Bartosiewicz said that studies are planned but that any extensions are probably five to 10 years away.

Paul Bourgeois, (817) 390-7796 [email protected]


Copyright 2001 Star-Telegram, Inc.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Paul Bourgeois