City to hire consultant for streetcar system

The city of Fort Worth plans to move forward with bringing in a nationally recognized consultant to finalize aspects of a modern streetcar system that would consist of an initial loop through downtown Fort Worth as early as 2014 and possibly connecting to campus in the future, a city official said.

David Gaspers, a senior planner in the city’s planning and development department, said plans for the modern streetcars began in 2008 when Mayor Mike Moncrief and the city council appointed an initial study committee to look at the feasibility of a streetcar system for central Fort Worth. The committee found the streetcar system to be a feasible option and recommended an initial route spanning from downtown, Gaspers said.

Even though the initial route would connect nearest to campus at the Cultural District, Gaspers said he did not see why the streetcar line would not connect to the campus in the future. Historically, streetcars connected downtown Fort Worth to campus during the 1920s, he said.

“It would make sense that many of the new lines that would go in place would follow lines that were there, the historic streetcar lines,” Gaspers said. “It is hard to tell at this point when that would happen.”

Joel Burns, Fort Worth council member and District 9 representative, said the modern streetcars would help reduce roadway usage and improve air quality for the city while creating huge potential for economic development within the surrounding areas of the streetcar route. He said he also envisioned the modern streetcars connecting to the university campus in the future but after connections to less affluent neighborhoods in north and east Fort Worth were established.

“I think that the political leaders in those communities are going to expect the modern streetcar to come in to their communities before an extension further south and west off of our starter corridor,” Burns said.

Gaspers said the initial starter route would consist of a central loop around downtown Fort Worth with extensions going east on Seventh Street toward the Cultural District and south on Main Street to connect to the Medical District.

With $1.6 million in federal funding from the Regional Transportation Council, an additional $200,000 each from a city bond for planning and streetscaping and a general fund donation from the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Gaspers said the consultant would be brought in to take a closer look at the study committee’s proposed plans.

Gaspers said the consultant would examine the possible economic development activity prompted by the streetcar system and devise a business and financial plan that would benefit Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Tarrant County as a whole and anyone else involved with the future development of the modern streetcar system.

The city wants to gain the best information possible from the consultant to make the best decisions for the proposed project, Gaspers said.

The main goal as of now is to finalize the starter route completion plans with the consultant and to obtain $55 million in funding for the final proposed starter route project through federal funding and grants, Gaspers said.



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