Independent review praises transit agency

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, the T, got high marks on a recent independent performance audit of its operations, a memo presented to the Fort Worth City Council and a copy of the audit report show.

City Manager David Cooke gave the report to the council Tuesday. It was required under the terms of a memorandum of understanding worked out by the city and the T last year, when relationships between the two were in turmoil and city and county officials replaced all nine members of the T board.

The principal issue then was what city officials saw as lack of progress on TEX Rail, a 27-mile commuter rail line between downtown Fort Worth and DFW Airport. TEX Rail is not expected to open until 2018.

But the performance audit by TransTech Management Inc. of Greensboro, N.C., specialists in transportation industry consulting, gave a glowing endorsement of the T.

“It is TransTech’s view that the transit authority is one of the best we have examined,” the report said. “While there is room for improvement, as is the case in every public and private entity, the T scores well above average in most functions and activities.”

The report said of TEX Rail: “Given the success of its role in the Trinity Railway Express [commuter rail line between Fort Worth and Dallas], and supported by a substantial planning, design and full service engineering firm, there is no reason to believe that the T’s future role in TEX Rail will not be equally successful.”

Still, the auditors included this observation: “The T is cautioned that development of TEX Rail will pull time and attention away from the T’s core business (bus service) and over-burden staff with added responsibilities.”

TEX Rail, expected to cost about $810 million, is the T’s largest capital project ever. Much of the development work will be done by contractors, but T staffers must provide oversight.

The report recommended that the T draw up a staffing plan to handle the load.

Paul J. Ballard, hired as the T’s president and CEO last year by the new board, told the council in a separate letter that the T expects to spend about $131.5 million during the next year on capital projects, most of it initial payments on TEX Rail vehicles and real estate acquisition.

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