Trinity Metro, the transit authority for Tarrant County, recently sent a request to the Fort Worth City Council asking for $86 million to fund two transit projects: a new bus rapid transit route and an extension of the TEXRail route south into the Medical District.
Council members discussed the issue at its work session this week and several council members expressed concern at the size of the request.
“I’d like to see where that request came from,” Councilman Dennis Shingleton remarked, pointing out that the city received a request for $10 million in funding from Trinity Metro as part of its budgeting process in September.
City Manager David Cooke clarified that Trinity Metro is requesting to be included in the city’s bond referendum expected in May 2021. Cooke also pointed out in answer to a question by Councilman Cary Moon that Trinity Metro projects have not been included in Fort Worth’s bond packages in the past.
Moon also highlighted that “we know ridership is down and was down pre-COVID.” He added that some city projects currently proposed for funding by a bond package would have to be replaced by the Trinity Metro project.
“We need to look at how we can use Fort Worth taxpayer money. We need to do some legal review of what we can and can not use the tax dollars for,” Councilman Jungus Jordan said.
Councilwoman Ann Zadeh, who also serves on the Regional Transportation Council of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, was not fazed by the request. “I don’t think they are over-asking,” she pointed out, stating that the appeal is part of planning for the future.
The total cost for the two-mile TEXRail track extension is about $120 million, with $58.9 million coming from the Texas Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration. The other $61.1 million must come from local matching funds.
In reply, Cooke sent a letter asking for more information from Trinity Metro about a schedule for the project, an estimate of increased operating expenses for the extension and how Trinity Metro plans to cover those costs, and a summary of the status of the project including negotiations with appropriate regulatory agencies.
Additionally, Cooke underscored in the letter that the agency’s projections for sales tax revenue were significantly lower than than the city’s, creating concern about the accuracy of the transit authority’s operating budget. Trinity Metro claims that any revenue received above the projections will go to debt service, and yet, as Cooke pointed out, that line item is not included in the transit authority’s operating budget.
Cooke asked that the agency provide documentation to help the city “better understand Trinity Metro’s current and projected financial position.”
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stipulated that the $10 million request from Trinity Metro was granted in full.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.