Officials hire firm to study streetcar project

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    City of Fort Worth officials moved closer to finalizing a modern streetcar system with a unanimous vote to hire engineering and consulting firm HDR Inc. to begin developing phases one and two of a three-part plan, a city official said.

    David Gaspers, a senior planner in the city’s planning and development department, said the company will begin planning a recommended alignment route and developing a business plan for the streetcar system as early as next week.

    The business plan, which is part of phase two, would include a financial and organizational structure that would identify financial resources, capital construction costs and annual operating costs for the system, Gaspers said.

    Even though the city only approved the first two phases of the plan, Gaspers said hiring the consultant is a step in the right direction.

    “(The plan) maybe slows down the process,” Gaspers said. “But maybe that’s OK because it gives us the opportunity to make sure we are choosing the right alignment and that we are getting everybody on board.”

    Dana Burghdoff, deputy director of planning and developing, said the consultant would help answer the questions raised by the city council and community members.

    “The key questions will be, ‘What is the projected economic impact?’ and ‘Is it sustainable to help cover the operating cost in the future?'” she said.

    The main concern for Fort Worth during the planning phase, which is part of phase one, would be how to pay for the streetcar system initially and how the city would finance for its future operation, Burghdoff said.

    “It slows down the process, which is good, particularly to help ensure that there is a common understanding about what the project is for and to also understand the economic impact,” she said.

    Burghdoff said the city council plans to hold informational meetings open to the public to answer any questions community members may have about the developmental stages of the project.

    Gaspers said that at the end of phase two in November, the consultant would present findings on the future feasibility of the project to the Fort Worth City Council and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority Board of Directors in order to begin the final engineering phase.