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Letter to Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) Board

by Joel Burns | Posted June 20, 2012

Dear Chairman Cumby, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Ruddell,

Later today The T board will take action on the proposed Medical District TEXrail commuter rail stop. I will be traveling to a previous commitment and unable to attend The T board meeting. I ask, though, that Members consider my comments as you deliberate and to include this letter in the record of your meeting.

As you well know, I have long been a proponent of expanded commuter rail service in Fort Worth. Forward-thinking transportation solutions for our City's future was a major tenet of my first campaign in 2007 and continues to be so in my subsequent service on Council.

To be clear, I will begin with:

  • I support commuter rail from Southwest Fort Worth, connecting through downtown, to DFW Airport.
  • I support the proposed route along the Fort Worth & Western Railroad right-of-way.
  • I support a "Medical District" station that best serves the largest number of commuters in the area.

Those are easy choices on which we can readily reach consensus. It is warranted, however, that we revisit how The T arrived at the more difficult decision of locating the TEXrail Medical District Station at Mistletoe Blvd.

It's has been nearly four years since I first expressed concern to T leadership about publicly identifying the proposed 12th Avenue station as the preferred Medical District Station location. The 12th Avenue site was chosen in part because of promise of future transit-oriented development on the surrounding properties and its slightly closer proximity to more hospitals.

Over the years, my concern became frustration then dismay as year after year The T failed to act to secure the proposed location and parcel after parcel was developed by their owners.  Now we have reached the point where 12th Avenue is what it has become today -- a financially and logistically unfeasible and unworkable station location. While The T is severely limited in its ability to reimburse property acquisitions made prior to Federal approval, the T waited years to even contact property owners about The T's plans, much less secure the properties before they were developed.

The T additionally failed Fort Worth residents in its recent public process. Once it was clear to most involved that the proposed 12th Avenue location was no longer tenable due to new private construction on the site, The T continued to allow Mistletoe Heights neighbors to believe there was a real choice between the 12th Avenue and Mistletoe Blvd. locations, even allowing an extensive neighborhood preference poll to be conducted. This charade-as-public process is the most damaging, disappointing aspect of the entire multi-year process. We deserved better.

I have growing misgivings about The T's ability to deliver on the TEXrail project for a variety of reasons, in addition to its handling of the Medical District station.

The T, though, can make great progress in restoring my trust and that of nearby neighbors in your actions. I request your actions today ensure the T's Federal application for TEXrail include the following provisions and commitments to Fort Worth and Mistletoe Heights residents:

  • Use of the cleanest, most efficient and least environmentally-impacting vehicles possible.
  • Extensive neighborhood public process in the design of the station.
  • Sound wall design that far exceeds Federal requirements in terms of height and length and integrate neighborhood public process in the sound wall design.
  • Vehicular traffic mitigation along Mistletoe Blvd. based on neighborhood desires in partnership with the City of Fort Worth TPW Department.
  • Pedestrian pathway and sidewalk enhancements to improve neighborhood pedestrian connectivity around the station.

For the above requests to truly work, The T must outwardly renew its commitment to a public process and engagement that demonstrates our citizen's desires and honors their many hours invested.

I will close by highlighting my first request. I recognize that the proposed passenger trains are an environmental improvement over existing commuter rail locomotives and a significant improvement over freight locomotives. However, technology exists, such as the Stadler-designed vehicles used in Denton County, which are an even greater improvement and lessen the impact on surrounding neighborhoods. Using today's technology in today's rail projects should be a starting point -- not a deferred future goal.

Thank you for your service on behalf of our great City,

Joel

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