DALLAS – Chances for state legislation authorizing the $2.7 billion Cotton Belt commuter rail project in the Dallas-Fort Worth area dimmed after the Fort Worth City Council withheld support for the plan.
Backers of the project need state legislation to create a special tax district in 13 cities and three counties to finance the project, but the deadline for filing bills in this session is Friday.
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said in February that she would not consider sponsoring the legislation unless it had local support. No other potential sponsors have been mentioned in local news reports.
The Fort Worth Council voted 6-2 against the Cotton Belt project Wednesday, with Mayor Betsey Price absent.
Despite the rejection of the proposal to provide passenger rail service to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and to the northern suburbs of Dallas along the 62-mile corridor of the old Cotton Belt railroad, Fort Worth is still backing a similar 37-mile commuter rail project known as TEX Rail. That line would also go from southwest Fort Worth to DFW International.
TEX Rail project has been in development since 2005 through the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. The authority, known locally as “The T,” applied to Federal Transit Administration for up to half the project’s projected $1 billion cost.
Fort Worth officials fear that the public-private Cotton Belt district would transfer too much control from cities along the route and might hinder TEX Rail’s development.
According to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, a private consortium that includes construction firms Balfour Beatty and Odebrecht expressed an interest in the Cotton Belt project, but the private promoters have not been formally identified.
Regional officials have pointed to the special tax district as a particularly important element because it would allow dollars to be captured along the corridor.
NTCOG is seeking resolutions supporting the plan from the 13 cities along the Cotton Belt route. Several have passed resolutions, but Fort Worth was the first city to formally reject the resolution in support of the district.