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Acreage Argument: A property dispute shouldnapostrophe1212apostrophe1212t derail the Trinity Railway Express.

Star-Telegram editorial

The startup of the popular Trinity Railway Express commuter rail service in Fort Worth already has been stalled for a year by the redesign of a new downtown Intermodal Transportation Center at Ninth and Jones streets.

Now there''s the threat of another frustrating delay: a potential six-month postponement in opening an Express stop at the Texas & Pacific terminal building on Lancaster Avenue on the south end of downtown.

That delay could result if the Fort Worth Transportation Authority is unable to settle a property dispute with developer and investor Taylor Gandy over the value of 3.8 acres of property that Gandy owns on the southern edge of the intermodal site, which will be a nerve center for rail and bus transportation. The T is acquiring the 3.8 acres through condemnation proceedings.

The dispute also could threaten the timely relocation of Amtrak rail service from the Santa Fe Depot on Jones Street (which Gandy also owns) to the intermodal center.

T officials have offered to pay Gandy $1.2 million for the 3.8 acres. This appears to be a fair price.

Gandy should accept this offer and end the dispute.

That would be a blessing to the general public. It would help ensure that both the new intermodal center and the T&P rail stop will open in October as scheduled.

In the fall of 1998, Gandy paid $1.28 million for a nine-acre site that includes the 3.8 acres that the T is acquiring.

The price for the entire nine acres is only slightly more than what the T has offered to pay Gandy for just 3.8 acres.

Furthermore, the bulk of the improvements on the nine-acre site are on the 5.2 acres that Gandy would retain. The 5.2 acres includes the historic Santa Fe Depot and two warehouses.

In addition, the T has offered to spend $500,000 to $1 million, at no cost to Gandy, to make improvements to ensure that his property has rail access.

The T also would bear the cost of transporting contaminated soil from the 3.8-acre site.

Even if Gandy and his wife, Shirlee, settle for the $1.2 million -- and drop their arguments that the property is worth up to $1.9 million -- they should come out of the dispute in fine fashion.

That''s particularly true since the Texas Department of Transportation has approved a grant of more than $2 million to help restore the Santa Fe Depot, which opened in 1899 and is the oldest continuously operating rail passenger station in Texas.

The Gandys have not settled on a use for the depot property, but previously discussed uses have ranged from a restaurant to a railroad museum.

It''s time to settle this dispute and get the Trinity Railway Express rolling all the way to the T&P building as quickly as possible.

The Express has been even more popular than expected in Dallas County and Northeast Tarrant County, where it has been steadily gaining riders. Fort Worth shouldn''t have to keep suffering further delays in getting the service fully operational in Cowtown.

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The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram