Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ft. Worth mayor seeks fix of rail line

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Fort Worth officials and regional planners have long tried to get federal support behind solving the infamous freight train delays at a railroad intersection south of downtown, the Dallas Morning News reports. Mayor Mike Moncrief on Dec.21 seemingly made more progress with one phone call than North Texas politicians have made in years of lobbying federal lawmakers. Moncrief's audience: Vice President Joe Biden.

The Fort Worth leader was one of four mayors who participated in a conference call with Biden. The conversation centered on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, how it has helped cities and what has caused problems. Moncrief said he took the opportunity to try to gain federal support for fixing Tower 55, where BNSF and Union Pacific rail lines meet near downtown Fort Worth. There aren't enough tracks for all the trains that come through the intersection. Thus, freight trains routinely sit idle as they wait their turn to make it through Fort Worth.

"Time is money for the railroads, and time is money for the companies that they serve," Moncrief said.

But he doesn't just consider the matter a local problem, because it's a major intersection for two major national railroads - one running north and south and the other running east and west.

"I consider that to be a national security issue and would appreciate some additional attention from the administration," Moncrief said. "We have tried without success on either side of the aisle for some assistance in helping create a permanent and meaningful fix to the issue."

Such a fix could cost in the billions. A change would mean creating rail lines that go around Fort Worth or a bi-level intersection. Moncrief said the intersection is already so bad that officials don't want to interrupt service. And just about any solution is going to require extra land.

"We've got some options, but all of them are expensive," he said. "All of them have political complications." He said Biden promised he would follow up on the matter. A member of the vice president's staff is supposed to let Moncrief know in mid-January what kind of priority the project has within the administration.

The other mayors on the conference call were Chris Coleman of St. Paul, Minn.; Joe Riley of Charleston, S.C.; and AC Wharton Jr. of Memphis, Tenn.

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