Fort Worth’s TEXRail line and DART’s Silver Line will connect at DFW Airport

Two rival public transportation agencies in Dallas and Fort Worth are close to finalizing an agreement that supporters say could revolutionize development of walkable neighborhoods with access to passenger rail in North Texas.

Fort Worth’s public transportation agency, Trinity Metro, which has operated the TEXRail commuter trains since 2019, has reached an agreement to allow Dallas Area Rapid Transit to run its planned new Silver Line rail cars into the existing TEXRail station at DFW Airport.

Trinity Metro’s board of directors approved the historical agreement after a 90-minute closed session Monday. The deal must also be approved by DART’s board of directors, which is expected to consider the matter Tuesday afternoon.

If finalized, the agreement would set the stage for development of a commuter rail line that within two or three years will stretch 55 miles all the way from Fort Worth’s medical district to Shiloh Road in Plano — cutting diagonally across the Metroplex, from southwest to northeast.

Supporters of region-wide rail say the joining of the two rail lines, which will remain independently operated by the respective Fort Worth and Dallas transit agencies, provides an unprecedented opportunity for transit-oriented development in suburban Metroplex cities that once were considered car-dependent.

In Tarrant County, North Richland Hills and Grapevine are already pursuing mixed-use developments within a short walk of their TEXRail stations — including single-family homes, apartments and condominiums, shops, restaurants, breweries and many other attractions. The railroad tracks also closely follow the historical Cotton Belt Trail, a paved pathway that provides bicycle and pedestrian access to some of the train stations.

Several DART cities, including Addison and Carrollton, also feature mixed-use developments along the tracks.

“It’s the answer to densifying our tax base, creating these urban villages,” Jeff Davis, Trinity Metro board chairman, said in an interview after the unanimous board approval. “We’ve got a great opportunity to do that at every station.”

The TEXRail line runs 27 miles from downtown Fort Worth through North Richland Hills and Grapevine, with a terminus at DFW Airport’s Terminal B. Trinity Metro expects to extend that line another two miles to the south, to Fort Worth’s medical district and Near Southside, in the next three years.

The DART Silver Line, which is under construction, would run 26 miles from DFW Airport to Carrollton, Addison, north Dallas and Plano, ending at the latter city’s Shiloh Road.

The key to the agreement was agreeing to a price that DART would need to pay for access to the TEXRail station at DFW Airport’s Terminal B, Davis said.

After months of negotiations, Trinity Metro agreed to accept a payment from DART of $27.5 million for access to the Terminal B station. Coincidentally, that is roughly the same amount of money that DART charged Trinity Metro for access to the Cotton Belt railroad tracks used by TEXRail, which opened to the public in 2019.

Officials from DART could not be reached immediately to comment.

Davis said Trinity Metro, which spent roughly $80 million building the Terminal B station, hired an appraisal firm and determined the value of providing DART access to the station was $49 million. Because the Regional Transportation Council had already agreed to pay for $21.5 million of the station’s costs, that left the remaining tab of $27.5 million to be covered by DART.

If DART approves the deal, Trinity Metro would receive $21.5 million immediately and another $6 million when Silver Line service begins.

Trinity Metro likely will use the proceeds to pay down some of its roughly $60 million in debt issued for TEXRail, Davis said.

The agreement could also signify a new era of cooperation between Trinity Metro and DART, whose leaders have often bickered over joint projects in the past.

Davis called the agreement “a reset.”

“I think it’s important for both agencies,” he said. “It’s a reset of the relationship we have. We are moving forward with confidence with DART, and trying to be a good partner with them.”

DART also operates light-rail at DFW Airport. The Orange Line, which has a station at the airport’s Terminal A, runs from DFW to Irving/Las Colinas and downtown Dallas.