Fort Worth residents could see funding from the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill boost several projects aimed at improving the sustainability, safety and accessibility of the city’s public transit system.
But the exact amount of money the city of Fort Worth and other local governments could receive remains unknown, officials said during a Feb. 1 Tarrant Transit Alliance webinar.
Overall, the law sets aside up to $108 billion to address public transit — rails, ferries and electric or low-emitting modes of transportation — across the country over the next five years. The bill is hailed as the largest federal investment in public transportation in the nation’s history.
An appropriations bill that will set the budget for the upcoming year and determine how much of the infrastructure will be up for grabs through grants is still pending in Congress. Steve Montgomery, Trinity Metro’s director of government relations, told attendees the amount Fort Worth receives will be significant.
“It’s difficult to answer because we don’t know what will be funded and what’s accessible to us,” Montgomery said. “We’re very excited about trying to chase some of those dollars that are now available.”
Among citywide projects of interest to officials include the East Lancaster Avenue project, which would bring a transit-oriented development to the city’s highest ridership corridor.
“It’s long overdue for investment,” Montgomery said. “It’s a very important corridor to our history to our economy and there are great opportunities there to invest in transit, expand on what we’re doing now, which would bring a lot of transit-oriented development opportunities and economic revitalization opportunities for this corridor.”
Trinity Metro also wants to look at obtaining federal funding to address plans for the TEXRail extension to the Near Southside Station in the Fort Worth Medical District as well as the Trinity Lakes TRE station and future pedestrian transit on the recently funded Panther Island project.
William Johnson, director of transportation and public works for the city of Fort Worth, said rather than being a stimulus bill, this new federal funding can also be used for planning and project development activities — a change from previous transportation-oriented bills.
“This is not a stimulus bill,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, it will stimulate the economy, but they want to focus on shovel-worthy projects rather than shovel-ready.”
Johnson said the proposed May city transportation bond — which would include over $320 million in street and pedestrian mobility infrastructure — could be one of the ways the city matches potential federal funding if the bond is approved. Voters are expected to consider the $560 million proposal in the May 7 election.
Several bond projects are being explored as potential candidates for federal funding which, if approved, would allow Fort Worth to use a mix of federal and local funds to then address a wider range of projects.
“Wherever possible, we will have the ability to use bond funds for federal match funds if those projects are eligible to receive federal,” Johnson said. “We’re keeping an eye on those projects that we think could be good candidates for federal funding so that we maintain eligibility for as long as we can and therefore the flexibility to mix federal funds on those projects and as a result, be able to do even more projects for the city.”
If the bond doesn’t pass, about $560 million worth of projects risk being slowed down, according to Johnson.
As more details emerge about potential funding opportunities, city officials plan to keep nearby counties, including Dallas, Denton and Collin, in the loop on how they can better address North Texas’ growing density.
“I’d love to see a more regional approach and focus on more regional connectivity of this, on how we can get more people out of their cars, out of their trucks and onto trains and buses,” Johnson said. “That’s gonna take everyone working together to make transit and public transportation work better for everyone.”
Fort Worth Report fellow Sandra Sadek may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.