Man who got TEXRail line built is re­tir­ing

Star-Telegram - - Front Page - BY GOR­DON DICK­SON gdick­[email protected]­gram.com

Paul Bal­lard came to Fort Worth nearly five years ago with an al­most-sin­gu­lar mis­sion of get­ting the long-de­layed TEXRail com­muter train project back on track.

Now, the rail line is poised to be­gin ser­vice Jan. 5 from down­town Fort Worth to Grapevine and Dal­las/Fort Worth Air­port.

And Bal­lard, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Trin­ity Metro, the tran­sit agency over­see­ing the $1 bil­lion project, is leav­ing.

Bal­lard told his staff Thurs­day that he will step down as pres­i­dent and CEO of Trin­ity Metro (for­merly the Fort Worth Trans­porta­tion Author­ity) when his five-year con­tract ends April 14.

“There would be no TEXRail with­out Paul,” Trin­ity Metro board Chair­man Scott Ma­haf­fey said in a phone in­ter­view. Ma­haf­fey said Bal­lard’s de­par­ture is con­sid­ered a

re­tire­ment, although Bal­lard has ex­pressed an in­ter­est in con­tin­u­ing to work in the pub­lic trans­porta­tion realm as a con­sul­tant.

Ma­haf­fey said it was an am­i­ca­ble part­ing of ways, and the board was happy with Bal­lard’s per­for­mance.

Bal­lard, who has grown chil­dren and grand­chil­dren in North Carolina, said in a phone in­ter­view that he plans to take some time off to con­sider his op­tions, but he in­tends to stay ac­tive in tran­sit is­sues, pos­si­bly as a con­sul­tant. He didn’t rule out the pos­si­bil­ity he would main­tain a res­i­dence in Fort Worth for some of that con­sult­ing work.

Trin­ity Metro of­fi­cials are ea­ger to build upon the suc­cess of TEXRail and pos­si­bly re­visit a pro­posal to ex­tend the com­muter line south of down­town Fort Worth to the city’s med­i­cal dis­trict and be­yond.

“I think we have made a lot of progress, and we have a good team in place,” Bal­lard said in a phone in­ter­view. “We have com­pleted what we set out to do. I’m ready to tackle some other things. I’d like to do some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent — maybe more con­sult­ing and ad­vi­sory ser­vices.”

Bal­lard ar­rived in April 2014 from Nashville, where he helped ini­ti­ate the Mu­sic City Star com­muter rail line in Mid­dle Ten­nessee. In all, he has 46 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in man­ag­ing tran­sit sys­tems.

About a year be­fore Bal­lard was hired, the Fort Worth City Coun­cil had re­moved all eight of its Trin­ity Metro (then called Fort Worth Trans­porta­tion Author­ity, or the T) board mem­bers, and Tar­rant County had re­placed the board’s ninth mem­ber. At the time, Mayor Betsy Price called on the new board to hire new ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship to get the TEXRail project through what she called “a crit­i­cal cross­roads.”

In ad­di­tion to get­ting TEXRail built on time and within bud­get — as­sum­ing all con­tin­ues to go well lead­ing up to the Jan. 5 start of ser­vice — Bal­lard said he is proud of many other ac­com­plish­ments.

Among them are the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a mas­ter plan that in­cludes more in­put from neigh­bor­ing cities in Tar­rant County out­side Fort Worth. Many of those cities have tran­sit needs that are con­sid­ered cru­cial to im­prov­ing mo­bil­ity in North Texas, but don’t pay the half-cent sales tax to Trin­ity Metro for full mem­ber­ship.

Ma­haf­fey says the Trin­ity Metro board “has some can­di­dates in mind” to re­place Bal­lard, but wants to wait un­til after TEXRail is up and run­ning be­fore dis­cussing them pub­licly.

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