DALLAS – A 13-city tax district in North Texas for a $2.7 billion commuter rail line remains a possibility after State Sen. John Carona filed a bill to authorize its creation.
Carona, R-Dallas, introduced Senate Bill 1333 just before the Friday deadline for filing non-emergency legislation for the 2013 session.
Without legislation allowing the cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to form the taxing district, a 62-mile commuter line known as the Cotton Belt would have no financing authority.
However, the chances of creating the district remain shaky after the Fort Worth city council voted 6-2 against a resolution in support of the district last week.
Fort Worth is the largest city along the corridor, which follows the former Cotton Belt freight rail line. Without support from Fort Worth, legislation is unlikely to pass, and formation of a district would not be viable.
Carona represents Dallas, which would have an interest in the project but would not be directly served by the commuter line. Carona said he filed the bill to keep options open for cities along the route but could not predict its chances of passage.
The Cotton Belt would begin in Southwest Fort Worth and travel northwest to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and eastward beyond that to the northern suburbs of Dallas.
Fort Worth officials see the Cotton Belt public-private partnership as being in conflict with a separate plan for about half of the route called TEX Rail. TEX Rail would connect Fort Worth to DFW Airport but go no further.
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.
A private consortium that includes construction firms Balfour Beatty and Odebrecht has shown interest in the Cotton Belt project, but the private promoters have not been formally identified.
The North Texas Council of Governments 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 to reject the resolution.
The Cotton Belt would carve a diagonal line across the Dallas-Fort Worth area from the southwest to the northeast and provide Fort Worth’s first rail link to DFW Airport. On the east side of the airport, Dallas Area Rapid Transit is nearing completion of the first light rail link to DFW. The Cotton Belt would intersect with the DART light rail system and another commuter line from the Dallas suburb of Carrollton to the city of Denton to the north.