DOT releases $34 million for Texas project
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday obligated $34 million to local authorities setting the stage for work to get underway improving a major freight rail chokepoint in Texas.
The department also announced a $15 million grant to start engineering and environmental planning on a high-speed passenger rail route between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
The DOT announced last October that the Tower 55 project in Fort Worth was one of the winners in the second round of discretionary TIGER grants. The program was designed as a competitive process for innovative, multijurisdictional projects of regional or national significance using more rigorous cost-benefit criteria for selection.
Tower 55 is one of the busiest rail intersections in the nation, with about 100 freight and passenger trains crossing daily. Total project cost is estimated at $104 million, up from $91.2 million when the TIGER award was announced. The balance of the cost will be covered by a number of stakeholders involved with the project. The City of Fort Worth and the Texas Department of Transportation have each pledged $1 million toward the improvements. The North Central Texas Council of Governments and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority have coordinated to contribute $2.5 million in funding to advance engineering and design work, and BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad have committed a combined $65 million (up from $51 million).
Upgrades will include installation of a 9,000-foot third track to help trains pass, new traffic-control signaling, bridge enhancements, closing some grade crossings, and improving nearby streets and pedestrian crossings. Once complete, rail capacity will increase by more than 30 percent and commuter traffic delays will be reduced by 100,000 hours per year, according to the DOT.
'Tower 55 is a crossroads of the North American continent,' said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, in a statement. 'This project will allow the Tower to go from a legacy chokepoint to the model of a freight and passenger checkpoint, a facility featuring efficiency, safety, and convenience.'
A Federal Railroad Administration spokesman explained that the agency held off releasing the money until the parties involved finalized a construction agreement and it received a detailed work statement and construction schedule.
Work on Tower 55 is expected to begin in early 2012 and be completed in two years.