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August 30, 2011

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood coming to Fort Worth to sign Tower 55 railroad deal, and discuss funding details for the next round of federal TIGER grants.


Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be in Fort Worth Thursday afternoon to officially sign an agreement to rebuild Tower 55, the notoriously congested freight railroad intersection near downtown Fort Worth.

The $91 million project, which includes construction of a new track and a makeover for several dangerous railroad crossings in inner-city neighborhoods, is on course to begin in April and be completed by February 2014, officials said.

The federal award of $34 million in transportation funding -- known as a TIGER grant -- was announced nearly a year ago, but the work hasn't begun because the parties involved haven't finalized a construction agreement.

But they'll take care of that bureaucratic step on Thursday at the Petroleum Club in downtown Fort Worth. Joining LaHood will be:

  • U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn
  • Congresswoman Kay Granger
  • Texas Transportation Commissioner William Meadows
  • Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price
  • BNSF Railway Chairman & CEO Matt Rose

Fort Worth-based BNSF and Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Railroad are chipping in a combined $51 million. Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, the state and the North Central Texas Council of Governments are also parties in the agreement.

Tower 55 is in the shadow of the Interstate 30/35W Mixmaster. Two north-south and two east-west railroad lines intersect there, and it's widely considered one of the most congested rail intersections in the United States. About 90 trains per day pass through, officials said.

The Tower 55 plan includes overhauling several pedestrian crossings in the Rock Island/Samuels Avenue area north of downtown, where children are commonly seen crawling under cars to get to and from school and home. Also, a third north-south rail line will be built, adding about 9,000 feet of capacity so fewer trains have to park at railroad crossings.

The Tower 55 project will create 900 jobs, according to officials at LaHood's office, and will give the two railroads that mainly use the intersection enough space to grow in the next 15 years without having to worry about capacity problems in the central Fort Worth area, several officials have said.

LaHood also is expected to discuss details of a third round of TIGER grant funding. States and metro areas will be encouraged to apply for more federal grant funding to build projects that can demonstratively add jobs, improve the environment, enhance economic development or meet one of the federal government's other stated goals.

During their face time with LaHood, Fort Worth dignitaries will talk up the importance of getting some federal funding to expand Interstate 35W from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to the northern end of Loop 820, Meadows said.



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TIGER Grant money comes from the ARRA or Stimulus Fund (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). So, are we looking at the administration trying to run another Stimulus bill thru? The North Central Texas Council of Governments, emphasis on Council of Governments, is an arm of the United Nations and Agenda 21 or Sustainable Development. They need to be cut off from our city government. What good are they? Don't we have ELECTED officials to oversee a project? Ray LaHood has said repeatedly that "we want more dense populations in our cities." Who is this we? Not anyone in Texas. Or, does he mean just "dense."

Lonnie Walls

As a native of Fort Worth who no longer live there I grew up in the area where these improvements are being suggested. I see the politicians and local big businessmen are eagerly willing to take the funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; which they should, however I don't see them giving the federal goverment or President Obama any credit for enabling this project with federal funds that will create over 900 jobs in the area. It seems very hipocritical that these same politicians would criticize stimulus spending, but get behind close doors and decide how they can best spend the funds, while yet telling the everyday citizen that that the stimulus was wasted. Yet they take these funds and then criicize stimulus funding. Good for Texas, but bad for America. This just does not seem to add up. People need to realize that we are the government and if these projects will help improve our quality of life and also create jobs, we should be thankful to the president and the federal goverment for this funding. Texas politicians criticize the federal government and President Obama about the stimulus, but sneak and take the funding. I'm confused either the stimulus is helping or we just don't get it. Rich getting richer while the poor are told to critcize and don't take handouts. If the federal governement can't help you; then who can...

Texas Insurance

They disagree with the decision on a national level, but it is still their duty to do what is best for the state, which in this case is to use the money. Whats different about Obama's stimulus vs the Bush stimulus packages? Bush got the third degree his entire time in office. I want Obama scrutinized just as hard.

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Perry has been a big critic of the stimulus funds, but you bet your britches that he accepted much of it. The ARRA was signed into law with set amounts of money going to whatever project. That same amount of money is going to get spent in one way or another, so they might as well fight for it, instead of sending it to another state, and still have taxpayers pay for it.

These guys want to be smarter than people like Rick Scott of Florida and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. They both turned down ARRA funding for high speed or higher speed rail, thinking their states would have to pay for it. In reality it was found that Florida's project would have made a profit, and Wisconsin would only have to pay about $750,000 per year in operating costs. Yet Walker actually just cost the state MORE money by turning the project down, because now the state has to pay back all the money that was already spent on the project, which comes to a few million dollars. And the taxpayers of Wisconsin (and FL) still have to pay for the original stimulus, that was redistributed to other states!

Buy Boots

Great~~~~But does that mean we should reject everything he said? Isn’t this a classic example of the old cliché: throwing the baby out with the bathwater?????

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