RICHLAND HILLS – When Elaine Owens and her husband, Danny, got a ride from a friend to Richland Hills Station on Tuesday early afternoon, they didn’t realize they’d be waiting more than an hour for the next Trinity Railway Express train to Dallas. “I thought they came every 30 minutes,” said Owens, who recently moved back to the North Richland Hills area from Hawaii so her husband, a disabled veteran, could get medical care in Dallas.
Owens added that the wait wasn’t too inconvenient, but, “A restroom and a convenience store would be nice.”
Richland Hills Station is still a long way from becoming the commercial attraction – with shops, restrooms and possibly even housing – that transit supporters hope it will someday be. But regulars at the commuter rail station are noticing signs of progress. For example, sometime shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday, workers are expected to open up a new Burns Street entrance to the station.
The switch will occur sometime after morning rush period, Fort Worth Transportation Authority spokeswoman Joan Hunter said. “They are waiting to close the old street and open the new one until after the early morning commutes because we don’t want drivers to have to experience the detours and barricades blocking the old Burns Street for the first time while it’s dark,” she said. Other than getting used to turning at a new traffic signal about 200 feet east of the old one, motorists shouldn't experience major problems, officials said. The move will make room for workers to finish up with the rest of Burns Street, which connects the train station to a nearby industrial area frequented by trucks.
The Burns Street realignment is an effort to straighten up an odd-shaped street formation at the station, and make it a more attractive option for prospective merchants. It’s part of a $2 million overhaul of the station and surrounding area, and it includes lining up Burns Street with the intersection of Handley-Ederville Road and Trinity Boulevard. Also, an additional 100 parking spaces have been added, giving the station a total of 480 spots, making it one of the most popular park-and-ride lots on the TRE line. The next step, according to those who are pushing for transit-oriented development, is to make the area more palatable to residents who want to live within walking distance of a train station – or at least take a bus to it. For now, much of the surrounding area remains a 1960s-era industrial zone. Chris Baker, whose family owns about a third of the 100 acres within walking distance of the station, said late last year that once the realignment of Burns Street was completed – most likely by the end of this year – he and others would begin marketing the area to developers.