Transit agency looking to future as it pushes Austin for a few tweaks
Denton County Transportation Authority officials are looking to make it easier for future rail expansion and for new member cities to have a seat on the board.
Before the Legislature’s 83rd session began, the DCTA board approved a legislative action plan that outlined ways to clean up some legislative language for the agency and help foster future partnerships and projects with area entities.
“Every legislative session, the board has given the staff guidance on what the goals of the agency are and what we’re trying to achieve this session,” DCTA president Jim Cline said. “We want that clear guidance from the board. [The guidelines] are a format for us to communicate that well and make sure we know the long-range plans of the board and [have] policy guidance.”
Cline said the agency is really pushing three items at the state level.
One is some cleanup to Chapter 460 of the Texas Transportation Code, which enabled the creation of DCTA, and to make sure new financial member cities have a seat on the board.
“A good example might be Lake Dallas. They are currently one of the small cities,” Cline said. “There are three small cities’ representatives elected as a group. If one of those small cities was a financially participating member, it would allow them to have their own seat.”
Another tweak would add language specifying that a board member must reside in the city he or she represents. This was already adhered to by the cities, but officials wanted it officially in DCTA policies.
“These are things that are important for the long term of the agency,” Cline said.
The second issue is Class 1 railroad liability issues. Class 1 railroads are large private entities, Cline said. While DCTA does not operate as one, expansion plans may set them up to operate in corridors that do, such as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line that runs from Carrollton through The Colony and Frisco.
One thing corridor owners have early concerns about is if they would be increasing their liability by inviting DCTA on their railroad.
“We have certain limits of liability, [but] private corporations don’t have as much,” Cline said.
Talks on this issue will be ongoing as the agency looks at plans to expand rail service in the region.
The third item concerns the agency’s ability to enter into local government corporations, like DCTA’s alliance with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, known as the T, and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
The agency would be able to enter into partnerships with various entities, including transit agencies and cities, to help get work done.
“The key thing, though — local government corporations are not new taxing entities,” Cline said. “It’s basically whatever powers of the agency that forms it limits it. It facilitates things. It doesn’t create a new path to get more funding.”
Charles Emery, DCTA board president, said the agency is spending a lot of time in the North Central Texas Regional Passenger Rail Alliance with DART and the T and, at times, their rules and policies differ from DCTA’s. Officials are looking at ways to align with the other agencies, and amendments to policy on the local government corporations can help.
“It’s not anything dramatic. It’s just necessary provisions and amendments. We’re looking forward to this alliance we have formed in the past few months,” Emery said. “We’re starting to work on some important things. We just want to make sure if we decide to do something together, we have the legislative ability to do so.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.