Ellis County group opposes mass transit
By 11/06/2003 00:00:00
Countywide transportation summit Thursday
The Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - A new citizens' group, DFW Review, has formed to fight mass transit in Ellis County.
Elected officials from all over Ellis County will convene at the county courthouse Thursday, Nov. 6 to discuss and hear presentations from the North Central Texas Council of Governments concerning mass transit and possible ways to secure commuter rail.
Commuter rail, a method of transportation consisting of passenger cars on already-existing rail lines, is about $30 million less than building light rail, which is passenger-only rail, according to COG estimates.
Warren Norred, a former state board of education candidate, formed DFW Review in hopes of informing people about the disadvantages and the costly drawbacks to mass transit.
'The creation of this organization [is] necessary because there are many other organizations pressing area cities toward policies that will raise taxes and damage our economy,' Norred said.
'Until now, there has not been any effort to organize these groups and pool their resources to combat the natural tendency of government growth, regulation and ever higher levels of taxation.'
Highway 342, according to Red Oak Mayor Todd Little and Lancaster Mayor Pro-Tem James O'Neal, would fit well with a commuter rail concept, and in turn, possibly rejuvenate both towns' downtown areas by bolstering economic development.
Scheduled from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the discussions will be held at a special meeting of the Ellis County Commissioners Court.
Discussions with area transportation officials from the City of Dallas and COG, as well as support from the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, have pushed regionalization and mass transit to the forefront of debate recently among the county's elected officials.
Though DFW Review, via its web site dfwreview.org, plans to address other issues like education reform, the main sticking point with the group - with members all over DFW - is mass transit.
'It is irrelevant to discuss congestion and pollution in connection with public transit,' said DFW Review member John Dewey. 'To make a dent in either, thousands of cars and trucks would have to be removed from the roadways.'
The editorial boards of both major daily newspapers said mass transit options are needed to comply with air quality mandates from the state and federal government.
Metroplex cities blame a substantial amount of their smog problems on Ellis County cement plants, and the best way they said to go about cleaning the air is to invest in mass transit.
Several months ago, the two newspapers, along with COG and local officials like County Judge Chad Adams, convened at a 'historic summit' to discuss and study the possibilities of implementing some sort of public transportation system.
The public part, Norred said, is the key word in the discussions.
'It's more socialism,' he said.
Plans have also been discussed to link the commuter rail with Waxahachie's pre-existing rail lines, and then extending it west towards Midlothian.
Recently, however, Denton County cities went to the polls to decide whether or not to create their own transit authority, a governmental body that would collect millions in sales tax revenue to be used for light rail.
Five of the eight cities voting handily defeated the measure.
'This issue needs to be discussed and exposed for the waste of money that it is,' said Shirley Spellerberg, a DFW Review member and former mayor of Corinth.
Norred's group has one goal, and that is to defeat an Ellis County - as well as any - mass transit proposal before it gets off the ground.
'We have to stop this,' he said.