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Cities May Have To Foot Part Of Bill For Tarrant County Rail Expansion

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TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – When looking at North Texas traffic and congestion it’s not only area highways that need new lanes. One railroad is planning a major expansion in Tarrant County. But in addition to leaving more people stuck in traffic, this project may have residents footing part of the bill.

The sky reaching costs are because of the tracks – it’s what’s under them. Gas lines, power lines, and water lines will all have to be moved, or reinforced, to make way for a new train track. The rail is question runs along Highway 377, a growing corridor, where traffic is slow even when there’ isn’t a train passing through.

For a couple dozen times a day, the crossing arms go down and the traffic backs up on Highway 377. At times the commute along the highway can be as bad as any interstate.

One driver told CBS 11 News, “It takes me 45 minutes to get home. Forty-five, on a train it’ll take me up to 45 minutes.”

Now Union Pacific is designing a second rail line in a growing section of Tarrant County. It will run about five miles, from Roanoke, down through Keller and Fort Worth.

The project is part of $680 million the company is putting into expansion projects this year. In the case of this project the railroad won’t be the only one doing the spending.

Keller Mayor Mark Matthews said the city would likely be on the hook for moving some of the utilities, and maybe improving intersections residents want to be quiet zones. “Probably $2 million is the best number that we have,” he said.

Keller may also have to speed up plans to build a walkway over the tracks. It would connect old town to a sports park.

For now, Matthews is optimistic the city can find the money, even though residents have a history of voting down spending for public projects.

“What I believe it’s going to help us do is focus, and kind of crystallize our plans. Because we’re going to have to do this, at the same time Union Pacific builds its second track.”

While train traffic will grow as North Texas grows, the backups likely won’t get bigger on Highway 377 right away.

Union Pacific told CBS 11 that while the number of tracks may double, that doesn’t necessarily mean traffic on the rails will double. Think of it like adding an extra lane on the highway — it just means more space for traffic to move.

The railroad is working with cities now on all the questions being asked about design and funding.

As it stands, the railroad has a plan to start building the new line in the spring of 2015.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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