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FORT WORTH At the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center, Jeff Payne and his son Adam were excited about something that hasn't even happened.

'We're all for expansion,' the elder Payne said.

Expansion of commuter rail in Tarrant County has been a long time coming, and there's still a long road ahead. TEX Rail is a proposed 27-mile commuter train system linking Dallas/Fort Worth Inertrnational Airport's Terminal B to the mid-cities and downtown Fort Worth. The initial phase of the rail line is projected to be complete by 2018.

There are plans to expand service to southwest Tarrant County by 2035.

'It is a milestone, but it's also part of a greater regional effort,' said Rob Harmon, chief financial officer of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. 'We know the better the regional system we have, the more opportunities for people.'

Trinity Railway Express passengers can currently link to the airport on a shuttle bus, but TEX Rail will make it a non-stop train trip from downtown Fort Worth and far beyond. DART service to DFW Airport from downtown Dallas debuted on Monday.

TEX Rail is not fully funded; federal money has not yet been approved. And while Harmon says more hurdles could be on the horizon, he's hopeful.

'The date has slipped, but we're now on schedule and hitting major milestones,' he said. 'We're going to let a contact for design in a month or two, and that'll really get us on track to meet schedule in 2018.'

The Paynes ride the rails mostly for fun, but say a link to DFW provides convenience at a lower cost.

'We'll use it so we don't have to pay to park,' Jeff Payne said.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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