Transit officials from Fort Worth and Dallas are working on a plan to combine their two commuter line services — TEXRail on the region’s west side, and the DART Silver Line to the east — by late 2022.
But, as with many plans that require the opposite sides of the Metroplex to cooperate, much work remains.
Trinity Metro, Fort Worth’s transit agency, opened the 27-mile TEXRail commuter line in January. It connects downtown Fort Worth to North Richland Hills, Grapevine and DFW Airport.
Where TEXRail ends, Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s planned Silver Line picks up. The Silver Line, which is scheduled to open in late 2022, would also stop at DFW Airport and then connect to Coppell, Carrollton, Addison, Richardson and Plano.
Together, TEXRail and the Silver Line would provide a nearly 60-mile corridor, cutting diagonally across North Texas from southwest to northeast.
The two rail lines — both of which run on the old Cotton Belt Line freight railroad corridor — would use very similar rail cars, built by Switzerland-based Stadler Rail, which has a U.S. factory near Salt Lake City.
And yet, despite the obvious synergies with the two projects, as it stands now, passengers would not be able to make the Fort Worth-to-Plano trip on a single train. Instead, a passenger who boarded TEXRail in Fort Worth would have to disembark at DFW Airport, and switch to a Silver Line train.
Why? Because Trinity Metro and DART haven’t yet agreed to allow each other’s equipment to operate on their lines, officials from both agencies acknowledged in recent interviews.
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For now, the plan is to have passengers change trains from one rail line to the other at DFW Airport, DART spokesman Gordon Shattles said. For example, a passenger who boarded a DART Silver Line train in Plano or Addison would take that train to DFW Airport, then switch to a TEXRail train for the remainder of the trip to Fort Worth.
However, Shattles said the “long term vision” is for each agency to allow the other’s trains to run the entire length of the corridor. He said officials from both agencies are talking behind the scenes about how to get such an agreement done.
“We’re actually working very closely with Trinity Metro and TEXRail to figure out how that looks, and how that works,” Shattles said. “Right now, the goal is to be able to transfer from the Silver Line to TEXRail at the DFW Airport stations.”
Shattles added: “Our long-term vision is to pick up in Plano on one seat, and ride on one train all the way to Fort Worth. Hopefully, before we open in December 2022, (we will) have a plan in place for that one-seat, one-train.”
The two train systems would share two stations — one at DFW Airport’s Terminal B, and the other at DFW North Station in a runway clear zone on the airport’s north end. Passengers would be able to transfer between DART and Trinity Metro trains at both stations.
Trinity Metro president Bob Baulsir also expressed optimism that the two agencies could work out an arrangement to run their trains on the entire 60 miles of track.
“We want to work it out with DART, the operational details of running from one end to the other,” Baulsir said.
If Trinity Metro and DART can’t work out an agreement to share all 60 miles of the TEXRail/Silver Line corridor, regional planners are preparing to step in and mediate.
Jungus Jordan, a Fort Worth councilman and a long-time member of the Regional Transportation Council — which is North Texas’ official mobility planning body — says the TEXRail/Silver Line corridor may need to be operated by a new, region-wide transportation government entity.
Jordan has often pushed for a region-wide transit agency to oversee Trinty Metro, DART and the Denton County Transportation Authority — especially regarding projects that cross county lines. However, his position has often been opposed by officials in Fort Worth as well as other Metroplex cities, many of whom prefer to have a local transit agency that they can work directly with.
“This could be the greatest test of regionality,” Jungus said of the TEXRail/Silver Line corridor. “I think it’s time. It’s only logical that this is the way transit is going to evolve.”
DART president and executive director Gary Thomas said he is optimistic that any disagreements between Trinity Metro and DART over the TEXRail/Silver Line corridor can be resolved before the Silver Line’s scheduled opening in late 2022.
“We’ll get there,” Thomas said during a break at a recent Regional Transportation Council meeting. The RTC is a part of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, where more than 200 local North Texas governments make long-term transportation plans.
“I don’t know that there are any prickly issues,” Thomas elaborated, “just issues we need to work through.”
He said the issues mostly involve details about how the two transit agencies will operate their rail cars, and handle slight differences in the rail equipment and the station facilities that each of the agencies uses.